Anandapur Chronicles: Snake charmer story

Satyakam Ray

Social insects like ants, termites, bees, and wasps often leave behind trail pheromones for marking pathways for others toward resource vastness. Sometimes, the trail pheromone is an alarm as the guards aggregate around a nest invader.

Snakes in the jungles also hunt in packs like wolves, contrary to the belief that snakes are solitary creatures. The Planet Earth episode of Young Iguana, where a few hungry Racer snakes wildly attacked it- gives us the insinuation regarding the group attack.

Are you wondering why the two unrelated issues are presented before starting a short story? These two stories are amalgamated beautifully to bring forth another heart-wrenching tale of the Anandapur Chronicles.

The story belongs to the era of the 1940s. Of course, the story’s narrator is Maa’s granny, who, at that time, was very young. Maa had listened to the report from her granny some 50 years back. I listened to the story some 25 years ago. It’s a third-generation anecdote, which has been somewhat watered down.

Let’s go on to the story without beating around the bush. At that time, Granny was residing in her paternal residence in Deogaon, a small village 10 km from Anandapur.

Once, a few people from a nearby village, Kansa Kendua, were visiting her house. As a host, she was feeding those people at lunchtime. All of a sudden, she heard a man crying. On inquiry about the sobbing, the man pointed towards a tiny grain of rice, which a group of ants carried away.

Granny and the people eating the lunch were confused. After consolation, the man finally could tell why he was crying. The ants carrying the rice grain reminded the person how the snakes in the jungle attacked and carried away his younger brother.

Intrigued by the revelation, the group gathered around the person and told him to narrate the whole saga. The person took time to regain composure and started the ill-fated anecdote.

Both brothers were snake charmers in the profession. The older brother was an expert snake catcher and charmer. Due to an inherited family profession, he was responsible for teaching the nuisance of snake catching to the younger sibling.

The tale belongs to the era of pre-independence. At that time, the village of Kansa Kendua had many vast untouched forests, and many ferocious wild animals and snakes lived in the jungle. So the readers can visualize the picture in their imagination.

The snake-catcher brother duo, in the afternoon, visited the target place where they would sit at night. It was a small creek in the middle of the jungle. Dense forests surrounded everywhere. Usually, in the middle of the night, the snake gang visits the stream. The team comprises enormous pythons, king cobra, smaller serpents, and various snakes.

The snake catcher sneaks up on the group secretly from the nearby tree. When the group doesn’t pay attention, he swiftly holds on to one lighter, small snake for his purpose. Learning as an expert snake catcher is a basic yet complex technique. That day, the older brother had taken his younger sibling to teach this essential trait.

The two brothers, as planned, went on to sit on the respective trees stealthily. The trees were located front to front, very close to the creek. The dense foliage of the trees was acting as cover for the brothers. They could see each other but couldn’t talk as a precaution. Only hand gestures, eye contact, and signals were used to communicate.

It was midnight. As anticipated, the snake group came roaming the creek. The two brothers were waiting patiently in the trees.

According to the older snake catcher, it was a sight of horror and beauty. Different varieties of snakes with ages differing from young to old were present in the group. Their hissing sounds were troubling to the ears. Despite the ferocity, the snakes were very elegant and beautiful. It was merrymaking family time for the snakes! They were unaware of the dangers lurking in the trees.

The younger brother was feeling quite impatient. In a hurry to catch his first-ever prize, he climbed down the tree without any signal from his master brother. It was a perfect mismatch in the timing! The snake group was only half away from the creek.

The human intruder was too much for the pride of the group. The snake group just piled on the unfortunate man. They hissed, bit him in many places, and finally, the more giant snakes carried the almost dead person away to an unknown location in the jungle. 

The older brother was helpless. He was watching this incident, sitting on the opposite tree. His life was in danger, so he hid for his immediate safety. Luckily, the snakes couldn’t feel his presence! It was good for him, but his younger brother’s whereabouts couldn’t be traced later.

Somehow, the person escaped death in the morning, sad and inconsolable upon his brother’s demise.

This story belongs to the 1940s before the independence of India. So, many finer details may be missing from the narration. The account is 100% genuine, though.

If the younger brother had waited longer and followed the instructions, he would have been saved. This proves that one should wait for the perfect time to initiate action. Nevertheless, Odisha’s jungles have become so thin and dispersed that catching snakes in that old way has become a passe.

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