This story is from Dhanyaha village, PO Ilahipur, District Hooghly in West Bengal. Dhanyaha is a non-descript village having houses that are bunched together surrounded by fields from all sides. The houses are built of cement, mud and bricks. The outer wall of every house has cow dung cakes pasted on it to be dried and later used as fuel.
Haradhan Ghorui, a 48 year old farmer lives with his large family which is supported by a small tract of land and some cattle. On 27th August 2015, as per routine, he went to work in his field at around 9.30 a.m. The paddy was growing well. Haradhan proceeded to clean the weeds that had lodged itself on the periphery of the field. A small section needed some ploughing and while he was doing this, accidently put his foot into a puddle. Something bit him and when he lifted his leg, Haradhan was horrified to see a Russell’s viper attached to his foot. He yanked the viper from his leg and thought this was the end of his life. He would die very soon.
This thought made him angry and vengeful. He used a small cloth that was swung around his shoulders to capture the snake and bit the snake across its body in three different places. The vicious attack had the snake’s intestines spilling all over. He then bundled the snake and returned home with the snake in tow.
When he narrated the incident to his family, they immediately took him to Singur Rural Hospital. The doctors examined him and since there were no signs of envenomation, Haradhan was given a tetanus injection and admitted in the hospital for further symptom and investigation.
The snake died a day after it got injured and was packed into a polythene bag.
The doctors on the ground consistently conducted the 20WBCT test to ascertain the clotting effect and urine test to check the creatinine and urea levels (which is found to be high in a viper bite scenario). This test was repeated 4 times every day and each time the result was negative. Haradhan was kept in the hospital for the entire week and discharged on the 7th day of the bite. Apparently he had suffered a dry bite. A situation wherein the snake bites but does not inject venom into the victim’s body. Haradhan was asked to report to the hospital in 2 days which he did. The total cost of treatment was Rs1500.
The author met Haradhan on the 13th day of the bite. While narrating the incident, Haradhan mentioned that he was saved as he had bitten the snake and killed it. The victim in fact was lucky by chance! He could have been bitten by the snake when it was being attacked.
A majority of people in rural India are semi-literate and have grown-up conditioned with myths regarding snakes.. In this backdrop, while it is heartening to see that Haradhan survived a bite from a highly venomous snake, his survival can easily get linked to countering a venomous snakebite by biting the snake back. Such incidents therefore need to be monitored and victims counselled on the real reason for their survival.
A myth that takes root is difficult to dispel. The more people volunteer to spread awareness about snakebites in their communities, the more are the chances of survival…for humans and snakes!
Written by Priyanka Kadam