My life changed quite a bit after the Kusanna’s baby incident. From the way the tribals interacted and shared their lives with me to getting me honey and other delicacies from the forest – the change was visible and overwhelming. I felt so much wanted and the love and concern shown by these gentle and loving communities reinforced my commitment to live and work amongst them.
A few days later, another incident further reinforced (in their minds) the usefulness of my presence at Brahmagiri. A few tribals from Devanahadi (a Jenukuruba tribal colony near Brahmagiri) had gone to the forest to collect firewood and while walking back, one of them by name Kariya was bitten by a snake. Apparently, the tribals had noticed some forest guards on their way back and had hid in the bushes to avoid being seen and troubled by them. Kariya must have then stepped on a snake lying nearby and had got bitten by it. After this, they all had walked back for over an hour to reach Devanahadi. Masthi, the Yajamana (chieftain) of Devanahadi had heard about my coming to Brahmagiri and he had suggested that Kariya be taken to ‘my clinic’ for treatment.
While the area had plenty of snakes, it was not very common for tribals to be bitten by them. They normally tried traditional treatment that would cost them a chicken or two and this method did not always work. They must have figured that I could be a lot cheaper as we were not charging anything for treatment for the tribals then. I figured that Kariya must have walked at least 5-6 km and at least 4 hours must have elapsed since he got bitten. The tribals claimed that the snake was a cobra and that I needed to do something to save this poor man’s life! I was not sure what to do and moreover I did not have any antivenin. I was in a quandary! It was quite obvious to me that either the snake was non-poisonous or had not injected enough venom into the bite. Kariya seemed to be all right physically and he seemed more frightened coming to me than being bitten by the snake. This was apparently the first time in his life that he was meeting a ‘doctor’. There was a lot of pressure on me from all the watchers-by. A drama was unfolding and I decided to play my part.
I assured them that I could manage the situation and confidently pulled out an anti-tetanus vial and loaded my syringe with a flourish. Kariya had the first injection of his life in full public view and he walked back home after my ‘magical’ injection as his fellow tribals cheered him along.
The tribals did not realize that the cobra could have been a non-poisonous rat snake and I surely was not going to enlighten them about it. I decided to bask in my new-found glory and this incident added to my credibility and confirmed the legitimacy of my presence amongst them.