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A Curious Case of Indian Bosom Serpent

"O, 'tis a mere nothing! A snake! A snake! The commonest thing in the world. A snake in the bosom — that's all" 
- Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent by Nathaniel Hawthorne [Google books link]

On the morning of 24th April, I reached Jammu to attend the wedding festivities of a cousin sister.

Since it was still morning, ritually, I had a cup of tea and opened the local newspaper- Daily Excelsior, the most widely read newspaper of the city. It offered usual unusual dose of death and mayhem. Sad, sad news. Mini-wars and min-conquests. National dailies have got nothing on them. Farther you get from the center, near the edges, grimmer the picture gets.

But on that particular day the paper, on its front page no-less, offered something bizarrely, slitheringly different.

While reading the News piece, please do keep in mind: this is the region where in ancient times the cult of Snake, Naga worship flourished. In fact, in Bhaderwah district of J&K people still perform ancient rituals of song and dance on certain days to please the snake gods whose leader is Vasuki Nag. Some trivia for filmy people, remember Rajkumar Kohli, the maker of all time classic Bollywood snake (revenge) film Nagin (1976), he too belonged to this region. And generally, everybody knows, in India snakes are still revered.

Since I grew up in Jammu, I have my own fair share of strange snake stories, and yet I was surprised to realize that snakes are still putting up a fight in this rapidly urbanized part of the region. I thought all snakes had been purged. But snakes seems they are still fighting the man. And what a fight! A suicide attack, no less.Well, it wasn't actually meant to be a fidayeen attack, but...anyway, here's what happened in what I like to call 'A Curious Case of Indian Bosom Serpent':

In the late hours of the night, a three foot long snake saw a five-foot-five man sleeping, near a comfortable ditch on the side of the road,  It's mouth was open. Too open. An invitation. Snake knew what he had to do. Such opportunities come but almost never in a snake's life. If everything goes fine, he won't have to work for the rest of his life. Carefully the snake crawled down the man's throat and reached its stomach. But the man turned out to be rather short, as, even though snake was about to reach the bottom of this man's stomach, his tail was still dangling out of its mouth. Not good. Even as snake tried to adjust and head for the bottom, make room for his tail, a sudden obnoxious smell hit the tips of his forked tongue. But he couldn't stop his descend down the stomach, his senses were already failing and he was now sliding, not slithering, he was falling down. A man's stomach smells obnoxious anyway, but as the snake's head hit and broke the surface of the liquid pool at the bottom of the man's stomach, the snake recognized the putrid smell. Alcohol. Darn that stupid man! A drunkard. If you think alcohol - that too, desi - smells bad, come and smell it inside the stomach. It is hell. The snake, his trail still dangling out of the man's mouth, was now drowning. He was fast loosing conscious. The man was still comfortably unconscious. If its conscious did stir-up for a second or two, the man must have thought it was bad eggs from that Jalandhari Egg'n'Chicken soup.
Death came slowly to the snake. He held his breath for long. He could. He could delay. But not death. He knew he was dead even if they caught him alive. Some alcohol did make its way to his stomach too. He thought of eggs. He wished he was a water snake. 'Can I crawl out of this one? How far is the other hole, the way out? Nah, that only happens in fairy tales', he thought. Death came slowly to the snake. In its last moments, he was convinced it was a bad idea from the start - this desire to be a bosom serpent, or may be he should have stopped at the bosom and not be too greedy, stupid and venture into this pit. People should quit drinking. Snake tried to move. No use. More alcohol entered his body through the nostrils. It was good.

In the morning, people discovered a snake's tail sticking out of a man's mouth. Panicky, mystified, surprised, secretly delighted people called the poor man's family. Together they pulled out the snake from its tail. The snake was found dead. The man was taken to a government hospital and survived.

The incident was talk of the town for a couple of days.


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