I Bunked Class to Sit Next to a Cobra
My experience living close to wildlife
Greetings from Munnar, India!
For 4 years, I lived in a residential school in rural India. Our campus was located 20 km away from the nearest town, bordering a reserve forest. So my neighbours weren’t the kind that would steal my newspapers, but the kind that would either bite and gore you. I shared my hostel with wild boars, monkeys, eagles and civet cats. And so, so many snakes.
Now that I have passed out of the school, I am reflecting back on my encounters with the wildlife of the region. I am writing an auto-ethnography of sorts, drawing on my personal experiences, outsider accounts, tales, legends and more.
Here is an excerpt:
“Ishan, you can’t keep bunking classes to go watch snakes!”. These were the words my physics teacher berated me with as I walked late into his class one afternoon. Just an hour earlier, a spectacled cobra had been seen slithering over the steps overlooking the football field. As soon as the word reached me, I dropped everything I had (I literally dropped my school bag with the closest friend in sight) and sped off to the field.
By the time I reached, the snake retreated into a tiny gap in between the stone steps. I watched as its coiled up in there, its jet black eyes popping above its golden coils every now and then. At last, it settled down into a comfortable position and stuck its head out and did not move a muscle.
Soon the tiny crowd that had formed lost interest and thinned out. For some inexplicable reason, they thought that attending their classes would be a more productive use of their time, and thus they left.
Not me though. Each and every snake encounter was one to cherish and I was not going to waste this one. In my head, this was much more important than attending a class on concave and convex lenses. And so I stood there for 2 hours just staring this cobra in the eye, waiting for it to make the first move. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the snake moved its head within its coils and now all I had to look at was a tiny sliver of its yellowish coils. Defeated, I slunk back to class.
As I dragged my feet back to the academic building, I reflected on how my relationship with wildlife has evolved while living in close proximity with wildlife..
In the middle of 2017, I packed all my belongings into one large, 26 inch suitcase, and said goodbye to my life in the city. I was to spend the next 4 years away from Bangalore at Rishi Valley, a residential school located deep in rural Andhra Pradesh. The campus had a few tiny villages on its outskirts, but for the most parts, it was surrounded by hills covered in granite and quartzite formations. These orangish-yellow boulders are quintessential of this arid landscape, and contrary to popular belief, host a wide variety of wildlife…
This Week’s Links
Namma Bandipur: Bandipur Tiger Reserve was where I realised that I needed to spend my life dedicated to saving nature. It is a forest that has a special place in my heart. Recently, I learned that the forest department, in collaboration with some film makers are creating a documentary showcasing the reserve’s wildlife. Here is the Promo video, and it is absolutely stunning. This one short video really highlights the wildlife of Southern Karnataka, India. You have to see it!
Creating a Wildlife Pond: The title is self explanatory. Very interesting story. Worth a watch.
Atomic Habits Summary: One of the best books on habit formation and self-development. I’m sure you’ve already heard about it, so I won’t go any further.
I will try something different for this week’s post card. Instead of giving my interpretation of this image, I ask for yours. What does this photograph make you feel? Do you like it? Do you dislike it? What story do you see in it? Do you think I could have shot it better? If so, how?
Whatever you feel like saying, let me know by commenting or by replying to this email!
Culture does not make people. People make culture - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Have a great week!
If you’re new, welcome to The Owlet! My name is Ishan Shanavas, and here I talk about my work, along with curating the most interesting ideas on the internet. I confine them to topics like Nature, Culture, Photography, and Art but sometimes fall prey to other genres.
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