To get some clarification in first: Srinagar in the title does not refer to Srinagar,Kashmir but Srinagar, Bangalore.
It was a tiring game of cricket as me and my cousin were chasing down 45 in 6 overs against my brother and his brother. Pretty much the elder siblings vs the younger ones. We were reasonably well placed with me cruising to the target comfortably when a nudge for a single went under the stone-slabs covering the roadside storm water drain running along between road and house. The stone slabs covered the whole 40-feet that the building stretched parallel to the road and the ball seemed to have gone a considerable 10-15 feet into the drain under the slabs after reflecting off a tree. Being the more enterprising one and in no mood to miss out on a historic victory (no one had ever chased 45 in 6 overs successfully on our part of the road!!) I decided to crawl in with bat and get the ball out. With no elders on the lookout to scream about such misadventures I began the crawl and it took me a good couple of minutes to get to the ball. Our house being on a slope it was also an uphill crawl. It was pretty much an eventless crawl as I got to the ball and retrieved it. And then the more difficult task began – getting out, as I had to crawl backwards now. This one took longer and was more arduous, but I made it with just a few minor scratches. The match continued and we duly won after a nail-biting finish.
I made my way home triumphantly only to see my mom scowling about my dirty elbows, knees and clothes. Minor scratches on limbs didn’t help much either! “Did you know some workers saw a massive Cobra going under the drain? Why are you kids always looking for such trouble…” The …s pretty much reflect a longer period of getting blasted for crawling into apparently-snake-infested territory. I for one, was still basking in the glory of the record run chase and no amount of getting ticked off about snakes seen was going to put any dampener on it.
Some weeks passed, or was it months? One fine day and Shankar rode in on their bicycles to my place and parked on the stretch of grass lining the road in front of my house. It was a couple of hours before the cycles found activity again as they were wheeled around to be ridden back. It was then that Shankar noticed a movement near his cycle. It looked small, maybe a foot long, pale in color, almost like a lizard. And then it hissed and moved on to the more observable background of the road. And there, it made its displeasure at being disturbed clear by fanning out its hood and hissing, barely audibly. The V on the hood was unmistakable, it was a baby cobra all right!
After a couple of minutes of all eyes on the road descending on it, the snake crossed the road and disappeared into the drain on the other side of the road.
It took a while, but my casual crawling in to get the ball and break a “record” did not look all so prudent an action now. For one thing it wouldn’t have been one bite, but something absolutely unimaginable that might have happened if I had crossed crawls with the mother cobra. I wonder what it would have done to get rid of a slow moving human being inside its den, possibly threatening its eggs!
A couple of days later, I stepped out into the terrace in front of my house to get some fresh air after dinner (we lived on the first floor) and was startled to see another one of the little cobras right at the gate. More than anything we were surprised how a snake barely one foot long managed to crawl up 15 steps of smooth concrete. We agreed that a bird might have picked it up and dropped it. Using buckets of water we washed the snake down so that neither parties, humans or baby snake, got injured in the process.
But that was the last sighting of the family of cobras for a long time to come and slowly they faded out of memory.
A year or so later, on the day of a Sem exam, there was a commotion in the neighboring building. Technically not the neighboring building, as the adjacent plot was empty this was the one after that. Someone had come across a 6 foot long cobra. As always, a large crowd collected and a snake catcher was summoned. He came in armed with a couple of sticks, caught the vagrant reptile before carting it away in a bag to God knows where in an auto with a surprisingly welcoming auto driver.
There were no further stories or direct contacts with any snakes after that. The incident, however, ensured that no one ever ventured into the drain for more than a few feet and eventually as we grew older, started working and stopped taking pleasure in simpler stuff, cricket on the road stopped. We eventually left Srinagar, moving on to our present residence in Mallathahalli.
With increasing traffic, no one plays cricket on that street anymore. 45 in 6 overs, my record still stands.