Making short work of a king cobra : The Tribune India

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Making short work of a king cobra

Making short work of a king cobra

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



RS Dalal

OUR IPS batch of 1974 was unique in many ways. It was the last one to be trained at the Mount Abu campus of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy and the first to step into the new premises at Shivarampally, Hyderabad.

The new campus was ready, but the local traders’ lobby at Mount Abu stood in the way of the academy shifting as it was good for their economic interests. The Director, SM Diaz, however, deftly handled the situation, and after two months of training at Mount Abu, we landed in Hyderabad. And, equally significantly, ours was also the last batch to have emergency commissioned/short service commissioned armed forces’ officers selected in the IPS and other all-India Services under a government scheme. There were five of them who were selected in our batch, including MS Malik, who hailed from Haryana.

He was a tall, handsome and energetic young man. Quite early on, I happened to travel with him on a train from Delhi to Nagpur for a short training session at National Civil Defence College. I was curious to know about his Army experiences. He recounted with pride his years in the Army, of leading his men with valour in the 1971 Bangladesh war. He talked of his stint as an instructor at the Army School of Jungle Warfare, too, where, among other subjects, he taught how to handle and defang snakes — and the thought of a slithering serpent evoked aversion in me.

The academy was located more than 20 km from the main town and only a few essential buildings stood on a sprawling campus peppered with rocks and boulders typical of a Deccan plateau. I was allotted a corner room on the ground floor. One day, around 3 am, I got up to use the washroom. As I switched on the light, to my horror, I saw a king cobra curled up around the toilet seat. Terrified, I quickly closed the door. Malik’s snake stories flashed in my mind. I rushed upstairs to his room and banged on his door. He sleepily opened it. ‘Come on! It’s a real test of your skills. There is a snake in my room,’ I blurted out in a torrent of excitement and fear. In his vest and shorts, he accompanied me to my room. When he opened the washroom door, the snake was still there and it angrily lifted its hood with a hiss.

‘Go and get a stick,’ he told me. I went out and searched for a stick but could not find one, Eventually, I broke a stout withy off a tree and showed it to him. Though he looked at the withy disapprovingly, he went inside the washroom and made short work of the snake. And then, he coolly laid the dead snake on the porch in a public display of his trophy.


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