Snakes, Tigers and Crazy Friends


A friend of mine believes that tigers are rational and calculating. If he were a philosopher or an academic of some other brand I would have acquiesced to his argument. But Vinayan and I were in a jungle and we were waging a life and death argument. “Tigers know that if they kill people, people will kill them in turn”, argued Vinayan, “and being rational they will not kill people”. Saying this he urged me to walk into the Jungle as far as we were permitted with the hope of meeting a tiger. Having a rather limited faith in rationality arguments, I was petrified. He would have none of it and we finally started walking out of our camp into the jungle.

Every time we heard a rustle we would both jump – he with excitement and I with fear. When I’d frantically look for an escape route Vinayan would rush to the spot where he heard the rustle with a childish excitement that I had never seen in a forty year old. Luckily for me, we only encountered squirrels and other little animals during our walking trips.

I have had these crazy friends who would believe that animals will not do people harm. In fact, at one point of time, I believed that if I do not feel scared, animals perceive it and will not to attack me (since they dont fear me in turn). Thankfully, I tried this argument only with dogs, but with considerable success.

An ornithologist friend would take me now and then into heavy shrubbery in the night. When I asked him if he were not afraid of snakes he’d tell me that it’s the snakes that are afraid of people. We made some noise with our feet as we walked and he assured me that the snakes will not bother us. The best incident with a snake was with a friend’s father who is an avid reader. When he starts reading very little can disturb him. Both my friend and his father are disorganized and the massive table in their living room was piled with stuff. One day when Nadar uncle was reading a snake was on the table. His wife screamed and asked him to run away. Not one to be disturbed when he’s reading, he just said, “it will go away” and continued with reading.

Thank god for some of these crazy friends, I’ve had so much entertainment (post hoc) and a lot to remember in life.


About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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