I grew up on a piece of real estate that was a teeny bit more than ¼ of an acre. The house occupied about 1/6th of the total area and was built on the edge of one of the longer sides of the plot. The perimeter of the compound was hedged with barbed wire on three sides and a laterite wall on the fourth side. The hedge was bedecked with bougainvillea which when in bloom was a riot of colours. In-circle to the wall we had coconut trees, jack, and large shrubs and ornamental crotons. Adjacent to one of the two longer sides of the house we had a lovely patch of garden; my mum being a passionate gardener. With so much flora, fauna was bound to come live in this paradise. So we had feral cats, stray dogs, rats, mynahs, cuckoos, wagtails, bulbuls, sparrow and snakes. Yes, you read that right, snakes too. Every typical Mangalorean house with a splash of garden, played host to all these animals. Rat snakes were very common. We would sometimes spot them scurrying about near the edge of the compound walls. Knowing very well that they were more afraid of us than we should be of them, we simply let them be.
Curiosity would get the better of them sometimes (or was it the rat-calling?), we would have them visit us at home. One day we found one in our store room, in the metal drum used to store rice. Another day it crashed through into the living room through the tiled roof and false ceiling. Rat snakes would crawl around the drying coconuts is the garage, as if taking an inventory of the produce! I had an uncle who was afraid of using the Indian-toilet. He wondered if a visiting rat snake making its way out through the toilet while he was doing his business would mistake his family jewels for a delicious rat!
Our dining room had a small niche in the wall where our Gods were installed in a beautifully carved wooden shrine (mantap). Lying around in the niche were worship-related paraphernalia – incense sticks, matchbox, oil lamps, bowl to collect flowers for the pooja and such other. I was home from college during the study holidays and using the dining room to revise for the upcoming exams. I was suddenly distracted by a noise – the flower bowl was moving and when I turned to look, to my shock and great surprise there was a long yellow rat-snake slithering around near the mantap. When I calmed down (in a matter of few seconds) I was amused to find myself standing on the dining table!!
I had my nose buried so deep in my books (on later retrospection I was surprised by my level of concentration) that I hadn’t heard the yellow fellow slithering barely 3 feet away from me. Once I took grip of the situation, I stepped on the chair (still not brave enough to get down to the floor) and i went ‘shoo, shoo, clap, clap’. As if on cue, yellow-fellow decided to leave after his morning meeting with the Gods. It was such a relief to see his tail disappear into the toilet.
I went back to solving the antenna-equations!