"Oh yes, you see the mice set up the whole Earth business, as an epic experiment in behavioural psychology; a ten-million year program
That's a famous quote from Douglas' Adams' hitherto unparalleled sci fi comedy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.
I have the same doubts about the canine species too. That they are here to do their experiments on us. Just imagine, you struggle hard to build or rent a house, set it up and just when you think you are all sorted out and there is no more to life , enters a canine. It uses its seemingly helpless and most endearing look, beautiful adoring eyes and those tails that never seem to stop wagging to psych you into taking it in. And before you know you are their slave in your own house. ('your own" - ha thats what you think!)
you already know of my adventures with my bosses - Munni and Zoozoo - and with them running the house, I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to do some organic gardening in my backyard. Encouraged by the compost I was making from vegetable waste and the fact that the dogs were using the lawn as their sandpit and also the pathetic quality of greens in the market led me to seriously take this crazy idea to the next level. I prepared the plot, sowed the seeds , carefully watched the saplings all the time saying "no' 'No' to the dogs. Soon they learned to go around the vegetable patches and I was pleased with the way my garden and my dogs were behaving. I even chided myself for not doing it earlier and shed unseen tears over all those tons of vegetables I did not grow.
And then one day when I had stepped out, the dogs chased something (probably a butterfly) and that was the end of my saplings. It looked as as though they had invited an elephant over for a tea in the garden. This was it, enough and no more! I picked up a stick and chased them all over the house. And just when I had closed in with a raised hand they lay down very submissively, tails between their legs and looked up with the most pathetic expression which said "sorry' (not meaning it one bit, I am sure).
Wherever they are from, I am sure they were trained on all the human weaknesses.
I threw down the stick in frustration and got a brilliant idea. A fence to keep the beast out!
Some extra terrestrial creatures were not going to thwart me efforts at gardening!
So I quickly got down to work , bought bamboo pieces, painted them and placed them all around the vegetable patches. Half way through the exercise I ran out of string.
"have saved some in the almirah. you keep asking me to throw stuff but see how it comes in handy at times like this" my maid Yellamma gloated not letting go of the chance to assert her superiority over me. of course you remember her from this post.
"amma, come here and see what is inside here!"
'what, a bandicoot I am sure. With all those old bottles and milk satchets you have piled up there. Bring the string, let's finish this and then attend to that" Now it was my turn to score!
'No. come here quickly" there was a little nervousness in her voice which made me get up and go there swiftly.
Inside the cupboard in the utility area that was open, a 4 foot snake was curled up snugly. mud coored and spots all over, in lesser light it could easily have been mistaken for coir rope. just 4 ft from my kitchen. If only it had decided to turn left instead of heading straight to the cupboard, god, my heart stopped for a few seconds which seemed forever. I retreated quietly, got into the kitchen and closed the door and bolted it. Brought the dogs inside and asked the maid to get in while I decided what to do next.
Would Yellamma listen to sane advice? She planted herself a few feet from the cupboard and started a conversation with the snake:
"Nagamma, I know yesterday was Naga Panchami . but I missed offering milk to you. I will make amends today. please go away, we are sorry."
Was it because people were pouring turmeric, kumkum and milk inside its pit on Nagapanchami day that it decided to get out and take shelter inside the cupboard? Or may be because of all the digging in the neighboring plot where construction was under way.
"yellamma, don't make noise there. Go over to the next plot and call some construction laborers. They will take it on a stick and leave it in an empty plot. I am sure it is non poisonous."
Luckily Yellamma heeded and went and brought a couple of youths along. They stood a few ft from the cupboard and struck the ground near the cupboard with a stick. And then the snake lifted its hood.
"NAGARAHAAVU." they shouted and ran. The snake went back to its original posture.
WHAT, a Cobra! I started shaking and sweating profusely. What to do now? whom to call? the husband was not in town.
I asked Yellamma to check if the neighbors on the other side were at home.
"oh, that amma came out a few minutes ago and asked me what was happening. I told her and she ran behind the door and closed it."
So much for counting on neighbors for help.
"Nagamma, aren't you a pet? no one will do anything to harm you. Go away the way you came." Yellamma would not stop.
My brain refused to work and my body refused to calm down. I went inside the prayer room, took some holy ash and put it on my forehead:
"Lord Subramanya, If I have done something wrong, please forgive me. Ask it to go away from here."
Then I remembered an article in the newspaper about snake rescuers. I had noted down the number in the telephone index. I quickly found it and called him.
"yes ma'm. I can be there ma'm. in 20 mins ma'm. 600 rupees if I catch it. But if it goes away before I come 350 for transport."
If he had asked for half my networth, i was willing to will it away at that moment.
"and one more thing ma'm. keep watching it to see where it is going and dont disturb it or upset it."
During this time, construction had stopped in the next plot and about 20 of the laborers were peeping over the compound wall. Curious passers by had joined them. The boys who had seen it raise its hood were describing how it looked with mudra with their palms. some were taking pictures on the cell phone. some had it poised hoping it would raise its hood again!
My head was in splits. The dogs were neurotic, demanding to be let out as theuy wanted a share of the scene. and they did not like the fact that so many strangers were gathered around the house. Yellamma would not move from her place. Now she had an excuse, that she was watching its movement.
The rescuer came as promised within 20 minutes. The crowd showed him the way. He went straight to the cupboard, used a prod to make it come out and then showed a bottle near its face. It quietly went in as if in a trance. It was all over in 3 minutes.
He closed the bottle, came out saying "over ma'm"
I was still inside watching everything through the kitchen window.
I asked him what kind of snake it was and he said "Spectacle Cobra.' An endangered variety! and all this time I was thinking that we were being rescued from the danger that the reptile posed to us!
The crowd gathered around him demanding "show, show" and the man was happy oblige. They asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that he would take it to the forest and leave it.
I moved away from the window to get the money.
The rescuer called " ma'm, I need your signature on this form."
I opened the front door, holding the two dogs on leash.
"give me a minute, I will tie them up"
"DOGS! oh please tie them up first" he ran out of the gate with the snake inside the bottle in his hand."
The Tamil version of this has been published in the current issue of Solvanam, an internet magazine. you can read it here: