He Catches Snakes For A Living
The cobra is hissing and twisting and turning. I stand there motionless. My breath turns into gasps. But, Suresh has a firm grip on its tail. He does not look elsewhere but on the snake's head. The man is confident when he takes out the 15-year-old cobra he has caught a day back, from the cage, for a photography session.
The sight of a snake can make most people freeze on their tracks or even wet their pants. But, not Suresh.
He is the only man Trivandrumites turn to when it comes to snakes. Ever since he caught his first snake at age 13, Suresh, known as 'vava' to his friends, has not feared the reptile. Several years and many a snakebite later, he still loves the company of snakes. And, his is not the bravery of a fool - Suresh is very much aware, from his own experiences, what snake venom can do to the human body.
Every day, Suresh gets numerous calls from people who encounter snakes. ‘The snake man' rushes to their aid, endangering his life and getting nothing much in return.
The evening I met Suresh, he had already attended ‘13’ calls and caught one viper, six cobras, two rat snakes, two trinket snakes and two wolf snakes. But that was just another day in his busy life.
Suresh makes sure that he attends all the calls and reaches the spot on time. He does not want lives to be lost - neither the snake's nor the man's. He is relieved only when he sets the snakes he catches into the wild.
‘Vava’ risks his life for a paltry pay just for his daily expenses . You have to remember that you would give anything to get rid of that cobra in your garden, had the man bargained.
"Money has never driven me. I don't take funds from people or organizations. I just want to live up to the trust people have put on me," says Suresh.
His family does not approve of his choice of occupation, but that does not change the man or his ways. "I cannot stop this all at once. I get about 20 calls a day. If I stop, what will those people do?" Suresh says.
Suresh prefers the old-fashioned way of doing things. Though he has hooks and other equipments, he rarely uses them.
"You have to touch the snake with your hands to understand its mood," says Suresh.
Suresh knows each snake's name, scientific name its behaviour, how quickly it can move and how potent its venom is.
"We had 'visha-chikilsa' for almost every snake's bite. But all that knowledge has now died with its practitioners," says Suresh.
Suresh plans to embark on a trip to an 'adivasi’ settlement to learn from the natives, and the herbs used for ‘visha chikilsa’. And, he promises he will not take his knowledge to the grave.
Suresh is not alien to the dangers in his line of work. In his 10 years with snakes, he was bitten several times. "The treatment for snake bite is more painful than the bite itself. But it is all about the mind. You have to stay calm. If you panic, you won't live," says Suresh.
Newspapers call up Suresh every other day to ask about snakes and his latest adventures. Yet, no one has offered him a free subscription.
Suresh’s charity does not end with snakes. He along with his friends has formed a network of blood donors to help those in need. He plans to start an organisation with his friends to protect and save wild animals.
The government has never come to his aid; he has always come to theirs. The last cobra he caught was a 15-year-old one from the laundry of the Medical College Hospital.
Scars, discolourations and surgical wounds on his arms bear testimony to the grit of the man - a real hero.
Suresh lives near Loyola School, Sreekariyam, and can be contacted @ 9387974441.
-- By Ashik Kalam