* Snakes can find refuge in the oddest of places in human dwellings. A Common krait, India's most venomous species, was found by rescue expert Salim Khan snuggling into a pile of clothes in a wall cupboard of a Sector 43 house in Chandigarh last monsoon.
Wise wildlife workers and field researchers as a matter of routine precaution check their shoes and personal gear before donning these. Dinto David, a BPO employee in Bangalore, came home after a night-shift. He glimpsed a Spectacled cobra race away and hide in his rooms. He summoned Mohan Krish, an expert who has saved 12,000 snakes in his 19-year career as a rescue volunteer. Krish searched David's kitchen, a box full of books, and virtually every nook and cranny of the house but could not find the snake. Krish finally took a look at the shoes lying under the TV table and discerned a movement in one of the sneakers. As he pulled out the sneaker, a 2.5-foot Spectacled cobra sprang up with its hood inflated as if an Easter lily had suddenly bloomed and stood gloriously erect. Krish caught hold of the cobra and later rehabilitated it in a suitable habitat. David was happy, he could now don his sneakers without fear and plan his workout in the gym later that day. Photo: Mohan Krish
RIFLES & REVOLVING RAANIS
* The eccentricities and riches of the native nobility in the Raj era were acutely reflected in the sporting firearms they would commission from English gunmakers. Not only were the firearms engraved in precious metals but the royal crest of arms and State emblems were so exquisitely depicted that these qualified as pieces of art, apart from the weapons' superlative firing and reliability. Many of these kingly possessions have found their way back to England and are auctioned to vintage collectors. Some fine weapons were put to the hammer by Holt's Auctioneers this past year, which included an obsolete .360 bore commissioned by the late Maharaja of Dholpur in Rajasthan. This was a double-barrel rifle made by Alex R. Henry and Holt's auctioned it for 11,000 English pounds. The rifle had the features of a back-action, sidelock, non-ejector and open sights with an ivorine insert. One of the world's finest sporting rifles was the .375 Magnum by Holland & Holland. One of these with a a hand-detachable sidelock ejector, double-barrels and formerly the property of the late Maharaja of Kotah in Rajasthan went for the hammer price of 26,000 pounds. When it comes to shotguns, the gunmaker, James Purdey & Sons of London, is pre-eminent. A charming pair of two-inch-chambered, lightweight Purdeys in their maker’s case, completed in November 1935 with 28-inch barrels for the late Maharaja of Nawanagar, fetched 15,000 pounds at Holt's. Up for auction on June 19 at Holt's will be another Raj firearm belonging to the late Maharao Shri Khengarji III of Kutch, reckoned as one of the longest ruling monarchs of the world (1875-'42). CAPTION: The Nawanagar Purdeys. Holt's Auctioneers photo
DIYE JALTE HAIN
* The other night in the Siswan dam jungles, I was amazed at the number of sambar eyes that popped up. If you can imagine a pair of 'jugnus' (fireflies) hovering close to each other and looking deeply into each other's eyes on a dark, still night, you will get a sense of how the eyes of a sambar shine in reflected light. Alternatively, visualise pairs of diyas that light up at short intervals and seem to be placed by nature on the dark outlines of shrubs to celebrate the night after its long banishment by the sun god. I learnt that when the eyes are very closely set, it means the sambar is a small one. If a human is on foot, sambars do not stay long in the light flashed at them but in the glare of a vehicle's lights the deer are almost rooted to the spot and is taken advantage of by hunters and poachers. On one sterling occasion, a line of sambars caught in a flashlight jumped effortlessly over an eight-feet-high crop fence. There was an Olympian grace and wild muscle to that spectacle because the deer had not taken a long run to clear the fence. Just up, and gone. CAPTION: Sambars at night. Bipul Karmakar photo