Mass ‘Hissteria’

The other day, we espied a mongoose scurrying around some thick greenery in our apartment complex.

Immediately, we residents did what we are supposed to upon seeing a mongoose, which is to animatedly shout: ‘There is a snake here’.

The mind always does this. Seeing one, thinking another.

Let me give you a more practical example. Take a photo of Siddharth Mallya.  Watch what happens. Yes, you spontaneously lapse into a fantasy over Deepika Padukone.

Ok, one more.  We try the same trick with the picture of Manmohan Singh. Now, the lurid imagination is on…NO! banish the thought.

Getting back to mongooses, it’s a long held belief that they don’t show up unless there is a snake or two to gobble up. But I think mongooses are stupid. These days snakes don’t show up anywhere unless there is a NatGeo/AnimalPlanet/Discovery documentary team in the vicinity.

They used to say that a new McDonald outlet opens somewhere in the world every 17 minutes. Or some such. But I say that every given minute a NatGeo/AnimalPlanet/Discovery crew is out filming a series on snakes in some part of the globe.

Don’t take my word. Stop reading this. Turn on the TV. You moron, it’s already switched on, you forgot to switch it off after watching MTV Grind last night. Ok, Don’t search for the remote (It’s under the sofa. It usually hides there). Tune into any of the wildlife channels. What do you see? Barkha hollering? No, not that extreme wildlife, you idiot. I meant the NatGeo/AnimalPlanet/Discovery types.

There you see it. In true HD-quality: Images of some random venomous snake in some random forest or city or dustbin. A programme named: ‘Serpents of Siberia’ or  ‘Hisses from Hyderabad’ or   ‘Athan da, idhan da, Anaconda naan than da’.

Ok, the last one is extreme. But you get the drift. A programme on slithering reptiles is always on in one of those channels with the camera trying to get under a rock or behind a bush, the kind of places where snakes presumably curl over.

Upon spotting the snake, the narrator will, usually with a long stick, prod the snugly-sleeping snake, which in turn will uncoil itself and snap ferociously at the stick. The narrator stirs it up to drive home the point that the reptile he is dealing with is extremely dangerous and pointedly poisonous.

Utter hogwash. When you wake up any creature in the midst of its sleep, it is bound to react violently. Exhibit A: Any employee at a government office.

(Exhibit B: My daughter.  She makes King Cobra benign in comparison whenever I try to rouse her up in the morning for the school).

Anyway, another thing that I fail to understand is why these channels are so fascinated by snakes, but not by,  say, a domestic donkey, which at least is useful to human kind, especially as a convenient swear word.

Also, those pursuing the wild things are never content with just some gritty, scary visuals. They radio-tag the creature and try to keep track of what it’s up to when away from the cameras. Is this some kind of kink? I mean, I can understand if someone radio-tags, say, Anushka Sharma. But a python or a hyena.  Gee whiz, this is some strange fetish.

Call me a philistine. Call me an imbecile, but these wildlife researches don’t seem to cut ice with the public.  Even after five or six thousand painstaking documentaries on every conceivable snake in the world, a film like Anaconda is still made. And what more, it’s lapped up by audience across the globe.

In the film, the anaconda jauntily swings from great heights, swims ferociously across wild waters, unerringly spots targets, even the ones hiding behind huge boulders (so technically it’s able to see through solid surfaces), it dodges bullets, it casually escapes rapier thrusts, and fights off enemies with the practised celerity of a Shaolin fighter.

In general, this is the kind of role filmmakers write for Rajnikanth. Quite conceivably, that was the case.  But probably the makers didn’t get his dates or perhaps chanced to see his previous English offering Bloodstone and hence changed their decision at the last moment, and thought they were better off letting a snake dramatically play the title role.

Anaconda, if you have seen any of the wildlife channels, you will realise it to be an extremely docile, slothful python that takes hours to move just an inch. In other words, it’s the A B Vajpayee of the reptile world.

But Anaconda becomes extremely passable when you consider the fact that closer home, in a Tamil movie, directed by Rama Narayanan, a King Cobra —– no, less, mind you —– is shown to courier love-letters between a young couple.

Now that we’re on the subject of animals, the same Rama Narayanan made another film in which a dog plays the nadaswaram and an elephant, wearing pads and cooling classes, plays cricket.

Anyway, the mongoose that we spotted in our garden would have been a disappointed one. It could not have come up against any snake.

For, as far as I know, all snakes are busy shooting for the National Geographic.