Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Spitting Cobra

Giant Spitting Cobra
This is an incident that took place in Arbaminch when I was about five years old. One evening after we had dinner, and were about to go off to sleep,  my mother suddenly told my brother and me to go to the bedroom and to climb on to our beds. A little later I heard my father tell my mother that  there was a snake in the living room, and it appeared to be a  spitting Cobra!  I later came to know from my parents,  that the snake had somehow gained entry into the sitting room and it was now facing my parents with stretched on the floor, with part of its front portion raised, hooded head clearly visible. After some time, the snake turned and looked away from my father, puffed its hood, turned back towards him,  hissed and spat ! What came out of the mouth of the snake seemed to be  a fine mist of aerosol particles directed at my father. This did come  as a bit of a surprise because the action was rather unexpected! My father, without wasting any time rushed to the water tap and washed his face with water ensuring that he splashed water on to his eyes which were stinging from the effects of the venom in the spray. It was this action that probably saved his eyes!

What happened next is etched in my mind. The snake after spitting at my father in the ensuing confusion crawled under the fridge.  After washing his face, my father returned to the sitting room where he discovered that the snake had crawled under the fridge. His main concern now our safety and so he had to get rid of the snake! My mother  in due haste went to call some of our Indian friends who lived close by. I remember seeing our Indian friends, Mr. Kingston and Mr. Charles close to the window encouraging my father to take action! Mr. Kingston and Mr. Charles didn’t dare to enter the house, and they kept giving instructions to my father about flushing out the snake. Mr. Kingston advised my father to shoot the snake with his Beretta pistol, while Mr. Charles told my father to pour some kerosene under the fridge and  light a fire to the inflammable liquid! My father did none of these, and having a presence of mind, he filled the electric kettle with water and having boiled the water, poured it under the fridge, whereupon the snake slid out, and my father dealt it blows with a stout stick. When the snake’s back was broken, he proceeded to put it into a tin of powder milk. When we saw the remains, the snake measured four and a half feet. Our Indian friends then offered to drive my father to the hospital run by some Danes on a mountain some five kilometres away. My father refused the offer, deciding to drive himself believing that the concentration required would keep him alert and in senses! Well, he drove the car to the hospital accompanied by Mr. Charles and Mr. Kingston. When he arrived at the hospital, the Danish doctor didn’t know what to do, and he kept on consulting various books, and he kept on injecting my father with various anti-venom injections! This process took some time because the Danish Doctor had to make sure about the treatment, never having come across such a case! After my father got somewhat better, his face having swelled to double its size,   Dr.Rekijay requested my father to show him the snake. My father then turned to the boot of the car  (he had the presence of mind to stow the snake) and opened the lid of the tin whereupon the snake proceeded to wriggle swiftly away. My father grabbed the guard’s staff and proceeded to deal the snake a few blows to kill it.

Spitting Cobra

My father took a couple of days leave from the school because his face remained swollen to twice its size because of the effects of the snake venom. I remember looking at his blood shot eyes the whole week! People later told us that my father’s eyes could have been irreparably damaged if he had not washed his eyes with water, thus diluting the effects of the poison which had been spat by the snake! About a week after the killing of the Spitting Cobra, its mate visited us, and lay curled inside one of the spare tyres kept in the kitchen. It had been looking for its mate, but then that is another story! Fortunately for the whole episode, my father recovered within one week! We had a dog that had probably been spat upon by a spitting cobra as its eyes had turned rather opaque rendering him sightless. The poor dog didn't live long!

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