Snake in the Mami’s shadow

Columnist  | Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

Opinion, Edit

Mami had got just back from the US.

The 861 pictures in between were of her scuba diving, kayaking, bungee jumping, kick-boxing and playing the mridangam (the last two at the same time, actually), all sans any assistive devices whatsoever.

All the high excitement in my life comes from my evening walk, the only time I take off from fearlessly saving the world via social media. Yesterday, on the corner of 4th Avenue and Rajaji Bhavan, a largish group of people was looking skywards.

Being looked upon (by myself almost entirely) as something of a boyishly good-looking village elder in my caliphate, the Greater Besant Nagar Region, I stopped to enquire.

“What seems to be the problem, beloved subjects?” I said.

“Snake, saar,” said Bashyam the auto man, continuing to look at
the sky.
“Where?” I said.

“Up in the tree there,” said “‘Puma’ Sadasivam the runner, pointing to a branch twenty feet above us. “Can’t you see it?”

“Of course, I can,” I said. “It’s black and purple and sitting right there without moving.”

“No, it’s actually just greyish,” said Bashyam. “What you are looking at is a cloth fibre from your black and purple t-shirt on your glasses.”

“Yes, I knew that. I was just testing you,” I said. “Your eyesight is good, you have my vote.”

“Snakes, as you know, can crawl up trees but can’t crawl down,” said Komalam Mami. “And this is a Gliricidia sepium, the tree that is. Not the snake. That’s a komberi mookan.”

Mami had got just back from the US. How did I know this? Well, I knew because she had WhatsApped me 863 pictures of her journey — starting with her wheelchair-enabled boarding of the onward flight and ending with her wheelchair-enabled return. The 861 pictures in between were of her scuba diving, kayaking, bungee jumping, kick-boxing and playing the mridangam (the last two at the same time, actually), all sans any assistive devices whatsoever. Other than a hip flask, that is.

“The wretched thing has come for the eggs of the parakeet,” she continued. Mami was an expert on many subjects. “And it will fall on some unsuspecting fellow who is walking, or worse still, riding by. Even though the komberi mookan is non-venomous, the person will die of a heart-attack.”

“I know what to do,” I said, and dialled a number. For years I had been trying to impress Mami in vain.

“The fire service won’t come for such trivial stuff,” said Komalam Mami.

Like I said, Mami was well-informed. From the mating habits of local snakes, easy-to-make parakeet egg recipes and the ins-and-outs of government agencies, nothing was beyond her realm.

“No, actually, I’m calling a writer friend,” I said. “She writes literary fiction and lives close by.”

“How’s that going to help, sir?” said Kurkuresh, Komalam Mami’s physical trainer. He was the one who was pushing her wheelchair in the pics.

“She could do a reading at a pinch,” I said. “Something lyrical and poignant. About displacement and deep longing, most likely. About loss and redemption, most certainly. The snake will writhe in agony for a bit, froth at the mouth and fall down. It will be comatose, in fact. Rendered completely harmless. Believe me, I have seen the audiences at her book launches. A recent lit fest where she was a panellist had an ambulance on stand-by.”

“Stupid idea,” said Komalam Mami.

“And if the bloody thing still has any signs of life left, we could take care of it by asking the writer questions about her book. That ought to finish off not just the snake but its immediate family lurking in that bush over there.”

Mami harrumphed.
“On the other hand, we could call your daughter, Mami,” I said.

“What good is she?” she said. “She is in the US anyway.”

“So what?” I said. “She could perform that sinuous snake dance number that she does so well at all her recitals. And we could show it to that damn reptile via WhatsApp. The horrid thing — I mean the snake, not your Visalakshi, lovely girl — eating up all the parakeet eggs whole, has to be a male snake. It will be seduced instantly by the shringara rasa in the item and come rushing down in a fit of bibhatsam.”

Needless to say, I won’t be walking on 4th Avenue any more. Henceforth, I will be available on the Blue Cross Road for my evening consultations. I’m the guy with the Mysore-style turban, fake nose and moustache.