– Satyakam Ray
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou.
History is not only about who won the battles, who owned what, or what dramatized endings happened over the centuries. An essential factor that keeps missing in the historian’s narrative is the people’s personal lives, struggles, achievements, how they perceive things, and what were their ambitions. If you ever read any history book, these human touches are missing by large. A generation’s whole existence and way of living can be surmised by telling personal experiences.
Over a cup of tea, I listen to my mother about her stories of growing up as a kid, teen, and then adult. One of my favorite places for vacation during my school days always has been the vast greenery surrounding Keonjhar. Anandapur is an influential small town located in the Keonjhar district, from where my mother belongs to. Even I have fond memories of the place as a vacation place. This chronicle is all about the stories I have heard from my mother since childhood.
This chronicle is a collection of real-life short stories experienced by Maa and passed on to me as a heritage. It is an earnest effort to capture the nuisance and nitty-gritty of social life back in the 1970-80s.
Now coming to the real story as I heard over a hot ginger tea on a lazy weekend afternoon.
The tea was getting cold, and I persuaded Maa to sit on the sofa and narrate one Anandapur story. She thought for a moment and started this story. The story was of 1983 when she worked in a high school, Brajabandhu Vidya Pitha. The high school was close to the football playground, which stands next to a vast cashew garden—the cashew garden borders the banks of the Baitarani River, which flows by Anandapur. Every year, the river is flooded, and the floodwater engulfs the vast arena of cashew gardens. Different snakes, animals, or even logs from the jungle are washed away from the upper section of the river to the lower delta or bank area. In this way, when floodwater goes away, now and then, some primate forms from the jungle remain in the cashew garden and occasionally roam around outside to the amusement or rather the horror of the curious onlookers.
Maa happened to know that one such incident was that of a meandering Maninaag. For readers curious about this Maninaag, this type of cobra holds a mani or precious stone on his hood which radiates light in the night; scarce, though. For many scientists, the existence of this type of snake is a myth only. But sporadic references to Naagmani and its powers have been made in folklore, and few eyewitnesses confirm this.
Coming to the story, a group of teenagers used to go for tuition in the M.E. school premises, which was very close to the high school. The high school boundary was visible from the place where students were sitting. One enterprising student once noted an unusual event that was beyond his fathom. Around 7 pm, a light traveled at 1ft/2ft from the ground. It looked like a torch. But the holder of the torch was not visible. It’s pretty unusual, considering the place was secluded, and nobody went near the playground or cashew garden at night. The same incident kept happening for a week.
Unable to keep the incident to himself, he blurted it out to his friends. Soon, the whole gang witnessed the bizarre incident. The teacher who gave the tuition also came to know. This became a hot discussion topic among teachers in the common room. Several theories were proposed about what it was. Many guessed it as a ghost! Unable to keep the excitement down, they decided to test the veracity of the claims. Here came the enthusiastic soul, one worker of the school, who promised to have a look at the thing personally.
The person(Rabi) waited near the high school boundary wall, from where the torch allegedly passed at a fixed time. A group of teachers and students waited inside the school premises with bated breath.
The time was almost 7 pm. It was pitch dark and complete silence was prevailing. Only a few howling dogs could be heard in the distance. Occasional rumblings of the leaves and swaying of the trees were audible in the near vicinity on that misty winter evening.
Rabi’s heart was beating very fast. Finally, the propitious moment came when the torch holder came into view. It was a very long snake(around 7-8 ft. as described by Rabi), and a glowing stone/pearl was shining on his hood. The snake’s hood was at least two ft. above the ground. It was coming at a majestic pace and with distinctive swag. The snake was making a deep hissing sound. On a closer look, Rabi found that the light was slightly yellowish.
It is the close encounter of the eyewitness from whom Maa heard it. This is an actual incident without a single iota of fabrication or exaggeration. Of course, after the encounter, Rabi fainted for a while, and the gang hiding on the school premises came to the rescue.
The incident, the next day, spread like wildfire. According to Maa’s not-so-vivid memory, nothing happened after that. The tuition classes were canceled from the school premises for apparent reasons. The story continued its form as a small-town myth, and few people believe it now. But the account was authentic 100%. Maybe the snake had escaped the jungle through the flood and decided to further his stay in the cashew jungle. The snake every day came from nowhere near the cashew garden, then went past the school boundary and crossed the road vanishing from sight.
Nobody knows what happened to that snake and how the onlookers reacted to its existence.
The Naagmani myth continues today. If any resident of Anandapur reading this story happens to know anything about it, you’re more than welcome to narrate your versions to me. I am curious as hell, and so do my readers!
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