Sunday, November 8, 2009

A darling pet python???

I remember odd bits of a childhood memory when father had once told me about a certain tennis star who had a python for a pet. I can recall the tides of fear and astonishment that had surged inside my little head then. Now almost after 20 years, Sam tells me about an American colleague of his who once had a pet baby python. At first I just brushed aside the conversation as another inscrutable aspect of the American culture. In India we do have domesticated snakes but once the snake charmers catch them, their poison tooth is pulled out which leaves them perfectly harmless. Over centuries and civilizations people have been fascinated with the domesticating of animals and birds, but a pet python simply sounds like a classic oxymoron. But eventually the incident turned out to be quite riveting. This particular python, while a baby, would feed on mice and infant pigs. But as it grew older it refused food and sulked inside its glass cage for days. Its concerned owner took it to a vet to check if everything was alright with the otherwise healthy and happy creature. The vet observed that the python was growing up and wanted more food to satiate its equally growing appetite. As a means of food mechanism, the python scales an image of the shape and the size of its prey as a comparision with its own bulk. This hungry python was actually starving itself so that it could feed on its owner!! The horror struck man was advised by the vet that he should leave his prized pet at the care of the zoo keepers. After this appalling end I could feel a little chill down my spine. Perhaps it's one of those little culture shock moments.

This episode further rings a bell about a certain short story of Khushwant Singh "The Mark of Vishnu" where Gunga Ram, a domestic servant dies a painful death from snake bite. Gunga Ram was illiterate and was therefore unreasonably religious and superstitious. He considered all life forms as sacred, especially the snakes. He regarded the snakes as the choicest of God's creatures and therefore they should not be harmed or attacked. And thus he revered the King cobra that lived in the house yard and every night left a saucerful of milk near his hole. The young boys of the house would often poke fun at Gunga Ram's absurd ways for they knew their science lessons well enough to be fooled by such blind beliefs. One fine day the boys manage to mangle and finally capture the King cobra in a box with the intention of parading him as a mark of their bravado in school. When the science teacher unfastened the box, the hurt and angry cobra darted out in a hissing fury. Gunga Ram, aware of King cobra's fate, had followed the boys to school in order to beg for forgiveness from the snake god. He presented the frenzied snake with his usual saucerful of milk and bowed down as an apologetic gesture. The cobra, furious in its urge to freedom, hissed and then frantically bit Gunga Ram all over his head. Ultimately his veneration for the deadly snake cost him his dear life. Before I digress once again, I would like to observe that it is logical for any creature, when provoked or denied its need, to adopt a defensive behaviour. It is in their very nature to do so. There is always a certain amount of risk involved when one tries to tame harmful creatures. A pet python starving to devour its owner or a captive King cobra paralysing its ardent devotee with his poisonous venom is only natural. Even my cat does not think twice before giving me one of her signature paw marks when I try to get too cuddly with her. She can and does a Garfield at such times! Let animals be animals then...


  1. Nice one... I too have read the Gangu Ram's story and the funniest part was when the "Must be Gangu Ram's eggs and we'll soon have hundreds of Gangu Rams."

  2. yeah............ nice one.Classic miki touch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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