This incident happened with me when I was in class 9th. Our high school was celebrating its golden jubilee ceremony and the hon. Governor of the state was to come for the function. As usual with every school, our school was also getting ready to put its best foot forward by planning several cultural programs. One of them was a mythological drama called “Sharpa Medha Yajna” (a sacred fire to destroy snakes). This mythological story narrates the life and times of a king called ‘Janmejaya’ who was the great grandson of ‘Arjuna’ the famous character from ‘Mahabharat’.
According to the story, Janmejaya’s father, king ‘Parikshit’ died because of snake bite. To avenge his father’s death, Janmejaya was performing this Yajna where he intended to wipeout all snakes from the face of the earth.
For the drama students, both boys and girls were selected to play different characters. But the big question was who will play the role of the king ‘Janmejaya’. At first nobody was ready to play the role. There was a buzz among the students that whoever plays the role of ‘Janmejaya’ will surely be bitten by a snake. Though this was discussed in a hush-hush tone among the students only, nobody dared to open their mouth in front of the teachers. Some students who were good in acting and singing pretended to have harsh tone because of cold; others committed such silly mistakes that our teacher was forced to eliminate them. As I was not of that good height, the role of the king at last came to me. I must say that I was first terrified to do the role but to impress our teachers and above all, the girls I decided to do that role.
I did not discuss about the gossips doing the rounds in the class with my parents. I wanted to be brave and show to everybody that I can do it. Some senior students of class 10th also told me in a sarcastic manner not to be afraid of snake bites, as one boy named ‘Shiva’ will cure me if something happens.
I practiced hard for the play and grasped all the dialogues and songs quite easily. As per my guess, everybody was praising me. I was on cloud nine. But from inside I was very scared. As if somebody is telling me that, ok, ok, try your best to portray the king. The better you portray, the more shall be your sufferings ha ha ha……..like the great snake king ‘Takshak’ is telling me.
Finally the dooms day arrived. I can’t forget that eventful night. The function went on very well. First there was patriotic songs and dance performed by the class 10th girls whom I always loved to see dancing. Thereafter regular ‘lecture-baji’ by the chief guest and local netas followed by prize distribution to the class toppers. At last the dance drama was to be performed. It was a cloudy night, it was drizzling just slightly. The play was just perfect as expected. Everybody praised the performance of all the actors. Our teachers were very much ecstatic by the response of the audience. At the end of the show several people gave me monetary rewards for my performance in the role of the king. I was very much pleased. Finally we had a feast with all the teachers and other staff of the school. I should confess that I am a sort of foodie. I can not resist delicious food especially sweet dishes. As per the tradition the sweet dish ‘Kheer’ comes last in a feast. By the time I took kheer for the fourth time it was 9.30 in the night. All my friends had left for home. Our house was on one side of the village and at that time nobody from our near by houses were left. Our head sir asked me if he could come with me but I refused to show bravery and decided to walk alone. I decided to come via a short cut, because I thought that it will take me less time to reach home by this route and therefore less exposure to danger.
I started to walk off the main road and take the short cut via a paddy cum cricket field. Several thoughts were churning in my mind. I was thinking how my father missed my show. If he would not have gone to Howrah on special duty, he would be very happy and I could have asked for anything I wished to have for long time; may be a bi-cycle. Anyway when he arrives tomorrow morning first I will tell him about the appreciations I got for my performance.
I was lost in my own thoughts. Suddenly I heard some strange chhan-chhan-chhan type of sound coming from behind. I stopped immediately. A cold wave went through my spines as if I have been bitten by a frost bite. The sound also stopped. I thought that this may be my imagination and went ahead towards our house in full speed. Again the same strange sound started coming. Suddenly the thought of the snake came to my mind. I stopped suddenly and looked back. Nobody was there. I was almost sweating even if it was a cold night. I started to run in one breath. Now I could clearly hear a slurp-slurp-slurp sound very close to my footsteps as if some thing is following me. May be a snake, may be Takshak himself, the great king of the snakes!!!?? My grandmother once told me that, one should chant the name of Garuda, the Vahan (carrier) of Lord Vishnu when fear of snakes looms large.
I was chanting whatever mantras I knew of lord Vishnu, but nobody taught me the mantras of Garuda, damn it. Why the hell they didn’t teach me a mantra for garuda? I was praying lord Vishnu, oh lord Vishnu, please please please tell Garuda, that I don’t know his mantra, you are his boss naa, tell him to come to my rescue, this snake Takshak is following me, please please.
Now I was running at the top of my speed. Suddenly I felt some sharp pain in my right heel as if a needle has pierced it. It was unbearable. I ran on my top speed as fast as I can. Soon I reached the Gopinath temple which is on the starting of the village. Several people were chanting keertans there. The last thing I remember is that I ran into ‘Ram uncle’, who was sitting along with the gathering and doing keertan. Ram uncle is one of our neighbors and is retired medical compounder. In our village, he is one of the highest educated retired men.
The next thing felt was sprinkle of cold water on my face. I was on my bed surrounded by a lot of people. My mother was looking tense and worried. She was virtually speechless. Everybody was asking me what happened. I could only murmur the words ssnnnaakkee….. . Ram uncle asked me what snake. I explained the whole incident to him. He said not to worry and gave me some capsule (I feel those were placebos) and told me to take rest. He tried to convince me that I had not bitten by any snake, it is just my imagination. When he examined my heel he was also spell bound for a second. At my heel, there were two spots like some sort of piercing and a few drops of blood were oozing out of those two spots. It was like a spot created by the fangs of a snake.
My mother started crying after seeing this, uncle Ram immediately asked her to go inside and not to bother. My whole body was shivering like a leaf and my head was churning as if I had been to a ferry giant wheel. Ram uncle kept on telling me that, it can’t be a snake because I have no symptoms of snake bite, but in my mind I knew that, Takshak had bitten me and I am going to die. My eyes became heavy and I don’t know when I felt asleep.
Morning I woke up afresh like nothing had happened. My mother and ram uncle were there by my side. Uncle asked me how I am feeling; Ram uncle congratulated me on last night’s performance and told that he didn’t miss even a single dialogue of the drama. At this moment, suddenly I remembered the last night’s series of events. I looked at my heel. The two red dots were still there and they had become brownish.
Uncle asked me to show my left arm and as soon as I showed that, he pierced a sharp injection in it. He told me it was tetanus injection. And explained what actually had happened in the paddy field on my return.
Due to my good performance, I was given any monetary awards by the spectators. And I was keeping them in my pant pocket. When I was walking in the field, these changes paisa in my pant pocket were actually making the chan-chan-chan noise. And I was too afraid to notice this coming from my own pant pocket. It had drizzled slightly in the night and in the paddy field, my own chappal in little pool of rain waters was making the slrp-slrup sound as if a snake is crawling. The oart of the paddy field was also converted to a cricket ground. There were broken bats, stumps thrown here and there across the field. And the thing which hit my heel was nothing but a broken bat. Actually in night while running, I had stepped on the broken bat. And the two red dots on my heel were actually because of the two iron nails in the broken bat.
Ram uncle showed me the broken bat in the filed and explained me what must have happened to me in that night.
He explained to me that the fear is within us, if we fear something, then our fear will come to us in any manner. The only way to keep away from these is by thinking some happier moments of your life or by bringing some positive thinking in you. Then these frightening species turn into jokers and make you smile all the way. I will never forget this lesson taught by uncle Ram in my entire life.
Thank you for the reading