Saving The Snake… and Myself.


by Nishigandha Nirgudkar, analyst, research head, pharmacist, potter, artist, martial arts champion, state level swinmmer, naturalist, farmer, healer, mystic.



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“An eerie, agonising sound ripped through my reverie… as I was ambling on my farm, feeling the earth beneath my feet, marvelling at the green sprouting, the joy in every corner.

“I turned and saw it on the mesh fence, spitting rage, fangs open, mouth pink, a huge, 6 foot snake, thick as my forearm… It had got caught in the mesh fence {We use only the animal friendliest ones}… It had literally woven itself in an and out of the mesh… In its crazed fear, the metal had cut into its body… I could see the colours, the brown-gold, the silver metal biting in, the pink-white of flesh exposed…

“I went in and got metal cutting pliers… and then realised that releasing the snake was not going to be easy, but dangerous… Our farm help took one look at the situation and said, ‘ma kill it, it’s the most merciful thing to do’.

“Now the only way we could release the snake would be to sit inches from its fangs, cut metal, peel it back slowly from where it cut deeply into flesh. I would have to do it in 3 places. It was a rat snake, and so not poisonous, but has anyone seen a rat snake’s fangs close up? I could lose an eye or worse. Plus, since rat snake’s don’t brush their teeth, the infection from a bite can be lethal, especially on the face.

“Yes, the only sensible thing to do was kill it. But I couldn’t. I am a fool that way. God would have to protect. Shankara would have to protect me.

“First, I had to order my 3 dogs away. They were slavering delighted at seeing one of their age old enemies dripping blood. One word of command and they went away and stood 6 feet away, slavering, hoping the snake would be foolish enough to bite, and mama would botch it up…

“I went close and started talking to it. As I did so, I realised that I had closed myself from the divine for years, enraged by a nagging health issue, financial crisis and personal pain. Where was God who had pulled me out of a million scrapes? ‘F*** him’ I had said. ‘F*** those sweet FB messages that say God listens...’ I had said.

“It took a very long quarter hour to go from the safe one foot away, to the in reach of the fangs 6 inches from the snake, as that happened a deep relaxation happened in me, and in the snake, slowly it stopped its frenzied terrified struggle, its body slowly relaxed, I could see it in its eyes, a strange dance of light. Slowly my hand reached and stroked its head. For a brief moment trust battled with the fear of half a million years as human ape killed, burnt, poisoned, crushed the snake. As I drew closer I began wrestling with the wire. Our eyes were locked and then something strange happened. A bridge grew, I entered the snake and it entered me. The first restraining wire, cut, I slowly wrenched the wire out of the hurt flesh. Then I began to work on the second wire. As I did so, the snake rested its head on me. There is a curious impossible to describe feeling, where you are human staring at snake gritting a metal cutting pliers against metal, and where you are in the snake sensing at the human. While I was doing this I could feel the snake in my mind, flickering the tongue of its curiosity through my memories, thoughts, feelings, life.

“By now the snake was almost wholly coiled around my shoulders. Rat snakes are not light. Besides, by now my doggies had stood up, one was actually sniffing the snake, but it didn’t react to a traditional enemy.

“Finally, I cut away all the metal, and the snake was free. But it didn’t move. I didn’t move. We were dancing within each other, revelling, tasting, living, loving, exploring, being, extending, expanding… then with slow, grace, the snake slid from my shoulders and arms, and into the green, as it did so, it turned, and looked at me.

“Goodbye Dear Friend, Goodbye Dear Self. May you prosper.

“As I got up I realised I had an audience. 3 dogs that didn’t bark, and had stopped slavering. My husband, and 3 farm workers armed with spades. There was something in their eyes. An unreadable something.

“It was then that my legs started shaking. Not out of fear. But because I realised the snake had given me an incomparable gift. I knew once again, without doubt, that I was one of the creatures around Lord Shiva’s neck. “Shankara, Shankara, how do you tolerate such foolish, fickle snakes like me around your neck?””  


Image copyright, Tarun & Celia Cherian & Nishigandha Nirgudkar.