22 July 2009
I first met Snake Shyam in 2007. At the time, he had already rescued more than sixteen thousand snakes, had made it to the Guiness Book of Records and had already been featured on the National Geography channel. But the irony of it was that the hero of the city of palaces, of Mysore, earned his bread and butter as a driver. Snake Shyam took school children back and forth in his mini van for a living. It was fascinating nevertheless to watch him at work; untiring, unyielding , always there for the rescue, always ready to go wherever his mission took him at his own expense, with his limited means. The snake population of India seemed to have slithered into the city were Snake Shyam lives; for his mobile rings perpetually throughout the day with pleas to rescue snakes that strayed into houses, shops, garages etc. He would simply get into his van, drive to the spot, rescue the snake and keep it in his house until the weekend when he releases all the snakes in the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. He never missed a chance to educate the people around him about the species he is so fascinated with. In his words, he is more concerned about what people might do to the snakes that strays into their spaces than what the snakes might do to the people. He religiously marks every visit he makes in his register and gets the signature, address and contact details of the concerned person. Rarely he is paid a token amount for his expenses for fuel for his mini van. I couldn't help feel terrified as i watched him scour through the pile of cardboxes searching for a king cobra that was hiding somewhere in the depths of the pile of junk without any protection whatsoever. But he seemed confident and knew what he was doing. People always gather around to watch the spectacle of a mortal human being trying to catch menacing serpents whose single bite could prove to be lethal. He uses a simple homemade device (made out of an old racket and cotton pillow covers) to catch the snakes. Snake Shyam has had two serious snake bites so far and the doctors have warned him that a third snake bite would prove to be fatal. When he is not on thr un rescuing snakes and when he is not transporting children to school and back home, Snake Shyam spends his time in schools getting children to understand the creatures he has dedicated his life to. He says his first encounter with a snake happened when he was a kid and has nurtured an affection for the majestic creatures ever since. His words of wisdom about nature and its sustenance seem to carry more weight in the minds of the crowds that gather than any environmentalist could ever hope for. In Mysore, Snake Shyam is a household name, a hero. See the full story here and an interesting article i found on the web about Snake Shyam here.