This is the ninth year that I have traveled to Kaskikot, and I have never seen a snake here. NEVER.
Well a week after I arrived in August, Aamaa was joking around and told me not to go out out at night for fear of snakes. When I scoffed, she insisted there were really snakes about…and within the next week, no less than 2 snakes crossed my path as I went to and from the water tap. Then, there was a poisonous one out in the yard, and Moti Lal Dai came over and killed it with a stick.
But the real kicker came about three weeks in, when I was sitting in the house working, and looked out on the porch to see a gigantic snake just staring at me. I am talking–this thing was the size of a firehose. It had its head raised up just above one of the stools on the porch, and it was just watching me, like: Yo, Spero. ‘Sup. I’m a snake.
I leapt up to shut the door, and as I did, the snake turned around and slithered away. I sat back down with my heart pounding. I kept thinking of it looking at me like that–it was HUGE–it was like a person! Later, I regaled the neighbors with the epic tale of my survival.
But all I could think of was, “Ok, you have my attention. What’s with the snakes??”
About two weeks later, I was returning home from a day of work in the city at dusk, and I walked past our neighbor Bauta Dai’s house by the tap. He was sitting outside with a tourniquet around his arm and his hand was the sicze of a grapefruit. He’d been bitten by a snake that afternoon while cutting grass in his field. After getting an injection at the Health Post, he was sitting on the porch watching his hand drain ever so slowly from a small nick they’d made.
I got back to our house, dropped my things, sat on the bed, and fretted. I told myself I should go back to Bauta Dai’s house and do my best to treat him. Besides, Bauta Dai is a natural healer himself–he does pujas and assigns rituals to counteract the effects of witchcraft for his clients. But I was afraid his family wouldn’t take me seriously. Or it wouldn’t work. And it was dark out—Aamaa alwasy gives me a hard time when I go out in the dark.
Then something made me think of the snake on our porch, and with sudden emphasis I said to myself, “Spero, it’s now or never.” I took out the red plastic folder and pulled out Catherine’s “Toxic Shock” and “Routes of Elimination” cards. These are designed to be usable by people in this community. Aamaa didn’t even give me a hard time when I said I was going over to Bauta Dai’s house at this hour.
When I arrived, Bauta Dai greeted me warmly and I said in Nepali, “Dai, I’m learning a kind of medicine where you use only your hands. Would you like me to see if it helps? If we have a few extra people, that would work especially well.”
In less than a minute, Bauta dai’s wife was arranging mats and pillows, all the family members were coming out of the house, and neighbors were arriving out of nowhere. In no time I had the entire toxic shock template set up and about ten people around Bauta dai treating him–there wasn’t enough room on for everyone to get a spot, and Sabitra just stayed for the party. Everyone was talking and laughing, saying, “If only we knew where to put our hands, we could do this all the time!” Then the list of pending ailments: “My back hurts. I have indigestion. I have high blood pressure. Can this help with fevers?”
We treated Bauta Dai for toxic shock for half an hour.
As people went home, his two granddaughters rolled around on the porch saying, “My turn, treat me!” and I switched between them while Bauta dai’s wife insisted on bringing me a cup of milk.
I walked back to our house an hour later and stood on the quiet path that traces the edge of our terraced field and looks out over a swath of open mountainside. Later, Bauta dai ended up having to go to the hospital to get more injections. But—and take this for what you will, I am only the reporter of fact—I didn’t see another snake near our house for the next month and a half that I was in Nepal.