The snake

We were driving up to the portico and Somaiah spoke urgently: see that snake ma’am! We asked him to stop and jumped out and hurried there. He was easy to spot, a glinting wheatish thing struggling ahead on black gravel. His ornamental reticulations glittered in the morning sun; his visible underbelly was clean, healthy, and white. A jewel. He sensed us and pushed himself away, and away, but in fear he often came near us in a swaying motion. Whenever we moved, his hood spread sideways a little, and retracted—then he spread it all out, majestic, fascinating. He was less than three feet, not so big, supple. He finally reached the kerb and went into a hole. His head emerged through the grass above the kerbstone and his tail waited on the gravel. He appeared to be in a mess while he paused, alert, his head raised, his neck raised, his tongues twitching, his tail elsewhere and limp. But grass was good for him, and he quickly disappeared into the thick short flower-beds. We called the gardeners, left, and went inside. There we had two guests from abroad, and we brought them out to show them the cobra. One of them wouldn’t reveal his feelings and the second was fearful and disbelieving. The gardeners had the cobra in a bag, and they poured him out on the very wide yard beyond the portico, which was difficult because he wouldn’t leave the dark womb of the bag and its apparent safety; he that held the bag by its iron-mouth couldn't grip the cloth for fear of being bitten. After the guests took pictures the gardener struggled to get the snake to see the mouth of the bag, to get him to go in and get captured. Moreover, he was suddenly showing increased energy and purpose. Ramanathan held a stick over the snake’s middle, and though he didn’t press hard, the snake opened his cobra-mouth and screamed silently: this wasn’t the fearsome, sinister face they show in the movies and on printed pages. This was a bright white youthful mouth, raised and open in terror, his neck swinging. Our guests asked: He’s very young, can he kill? I said yes. The snake went into the bag to be taken to the woods. The rest of us went in and did business.

Technorati Tags: