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Wildbuzz: Hiss master’s voice & choice

Travellers on the Tricity’s countryside roads, too, will have observed snakes run over by vehicles in October. The reason being, reptiles slither out at night to deserted roads to seek warmth from the still-warm tarmac.

punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2018 09:09 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Wildbuzz
A Rock python rescued from a Rock Garden workshop on October 24. (HT Photo )

As night temperatures dip, Indian Rock pythons move from depths of peripheral scrubland jungles to outward edges. They seek winter hideouts away from dense canopy and shady jungles. Found close to water in warmer seasons, these apex serpents tend to move away from moisture’s clammy cold to drier spots as part of a limited autumnal migration.

Travellers on the Tricity’s countryside roads, too, will have observed snakes run over by vehicles in October. The reason being, reptiles slither out at night to deserted roads to seek warmth from the still-warm tarmac.

One such python, an estimated 10-foot adult, undertook a short migration and located an excellent basking point: a glazed workshop bang opposite the residence of late Nek Chand in Rock Garden. Slithering in from adjacent jungles on Tuesday/Wednesday night, the python stretched out long between disused wooden poles lying in the workshop’s corner. The poles served as a good camouflage for the dead-still serpent and the glazed front let in sunlight for major hours of the day.

All went well for the python --- basking like a sighing, sun-starved Nordic blonde on an equatorial beach holiday --- till Rock Garden artisan, Satpal Singh, walked into the workshop on Wednesday at 1.30 pm. Though Satpal did not notice the python, the serpent got a wee bit rattled and let out a warning hiss that echoed in the eerie silence.

“I heard that hiss and spun on my heels. The python retracted from its linear position and retreated into a coil. Other workers got to know and senior officers arrived. I pleaded for the python’s life, saying it, too, must have a parivaar (family) like all of us. I felt there was no need to disturb it as it would go its own way soon. I am the only person who uses the workshop and I knew from experience that the python posed no danger,” Satpal told this writer.

Anyways, the humble, nature-friendly artisan’s appeals were over-ruled and a team from the UT forest and wildlife department was summoned. The burly wildlife personnel soon rescued the python, one man grasping the neck and four others the thick body till its powerful contortions seeking “escape from rescue’’ were stilled to the tail. The shy serpent may have perceived its “rescue” more akin to being accosted by a gang dispatched by Godfather Don Corleone to sort out his daughter’s illegitimate lover!

Satpal Singh with one of his creative works for Rock Garden. (Vikram Jit Singh)

Tail piece: I was astounded by the sensitivity and awareness of artisan Satpal, a resident of Khuda Ali Sher village. He fashions statues/sculptures for Rock Garden. An illiterate, Satpal lives with umpteen snakes in the Rock Garden. He just gives way to them during frequent encounters in wild grasses and in derelict workshops. Satpal’s native intelligence, burnished by a lifetime of practical experience, has pierced through free floating myths, WhatsApp/internet-fuelled half-baked truths and superstitions obscuring the real lives of snakes.

His keen mind filters and retains the correct, scientific knowledge. For instance, Satpal knows snakes don’t have ears or eyelids and keep their eyes open 24x7, they discern movement through tremors and that feeding snakes with milk does them no good. If love is a form of deep, mutual understanding and respect, it translates into the snakes and Satpal never having trodden upon each other’s sensitivities.

The writer can be contacted at vjswild1@gmail.com

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 09:08 IST