My neighbour in JNU whose husband teaches with me in School of Social Sciences has a house in Alleppey which belongs to her husband's taravad. So we combined a trip together to Kerala, since she wanted to visit Pallakad where I own a flat near the river Kalpathy. Vijaya Ramaswamy, well known author of many books on religion and feminism, and also a JNU Professor, had introduced me to the Kalpathy area, and I have been visiting there for some years, setting up a field work base as sociologists always do, wherever they go. There is no direct experience for us, it is always the trained eye that observes. I speak for myself, I am sure there are many Sociologists who do not compound their lives with all things only Sociological. Since Tara's husband is our neighbour in Allapuza (yes, my father inherited a house from his father,and my mother owns that house) we are more than just acquaintances. Kalpathy became very interesting for me through her eyes, because she is an artist and a mystic, who works with the theme of transcendence in her work. She also has a prolific garden of lilies and jasmines and all things seasonal in JNU. So, when Tara said that she wanted to experience the aura of the Viswnath Swamy temple, I was delighted to have her for company. We got off the plane, at Coimbatore, we took a taxi and speeded down to Pallakad. Opened the flat, ran the water, (it was swept and clean already) and then we went to the shops to get some food. On the way, Tara kept saying "I can smell snake!" I had no idea what she meant. She kept repeating this, and then two minutes later, we saw a fat coiled snake in our path, and stepped past it. Recently I saw a Hollywood film on TV ( with a very young Michael Douglas) where the actor named, kills a snake just before it is to bite the actress, and he said nonchalantly "A Bushmaster!" Well, sitting on my sofa in my comfortable house in JNU (never mind the seepage which refuses to get fixed) I recognised the snake as the one we saw in our path. We were then more pleased that Tara's Nair facility for recognising snakes which is in her blood, had proved correct. We really stepped past jauntily, just tired I suppose and not really letting the fact sink in that it was a snake. After we bought our idlis from the local cafe, we walked back and this time there were three men with torch lights, saying "wait, please, do not move!' and we said simultaneously and cheerily "Oh we have already seen him!" and went past, carefully avoiding the pool of water, and looking at the snake with tourist interest.
It was drizzling, we got a cough that in my case took three months to dislodge, and as for the snake, it was dead the next afternoon. It had a petulant open mouth in death, and its small head had been crushed by some vehicle or perhaps with a stick. Why it chose to come down from the hill and lie in our path, no idea. Sometimes when it rains, the snakes slither down. When its very hot in JNU, the snakes come out looking for water, and while crossing the road they get killed. They have their lives, and we have ours, and sometimes our paths cross.