Catch Me If You Can

We always enjoy the company of family and friends. Only rarely do we get to enjoy a playful company of our animal friends. I got such a chance one day. I was wandering around as usual on the serene campus of IIT Bombay. A squirrel was shouting incessantly near one of the hostels. I went to check if anything interesting was happening. The squirrel was on a tree and was shouting at a rat snake which was trying to climb the tree from an abandoned water tank. The squirrel was teasing the snake.

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Both of them saw me approaching and inducted me in their game of hide-and-seek. Obeying nature’s laws, the snake was to seek and we were to run and hide. Each of us knew that very well, didn’t we?

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The snake was alarmingly fast and unsurprisingly cunning. Realizing that the squirrel was more or less safe on the tree, it descended from the tank and vanished somewhere. I started to circle the tank to look for it. And there it was! It was hiding behind the tree trunk and following my every movement. It was quite dark on this side of the tank. I kept moving. I was also taking photos and had a strong (and stupid) urge to check if they were coming out okay given the bad light. So I started going through them. It was only a few moments but that was all the snake needed. When I looked up again, the snake was staring right at me.

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And I realized my grave mistake. There was a fence to my back and the snake was hardly 10 feet away. May be it was going to win this time? If I were to make a move, it could have attacked me. So I kept my guard and momentarily the snake ducked back underneath the tank.

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I took the chance and ran to a safe distance. Now the snake could still see my movements from under the tank but I could not see it at all. I removed the UV filter from camera lens and used it as a mirror to beam the sunlight. I systematically scanned the gap between the ground and the bottom of the tank. The snake was right there waiting patiently.

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No one can beat a snake in patience so we gave up and declared it a winner. Morale of the story: Do not check recently taken photos, your own appearance, take phone calls, or in general assume that you are smarter/stronger/faster when you are playing around with a snake. There may not always be a second chance.

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