Tuesday, April 03, 2007

toastmasters speech - 2

This is the second speech I did at Toastmasters club. Though my speech didn't strictly adhere to the guidelines which said 'Organise your speech', it was quite well-received.

* * * *
A hiss in the neighborhood

Picture this. Early September day in a village where the monsoon was just over and the lush green paddy fields are swaying to the soft breeze. A small lil’ girl is running amidst those fields. How does it sound? Beautiful right? But this picture doesn’t remain beautiful for long. The shadow of death was looming large over this beautiful picture.

The girl, obviously unaware, steps into the territory of a creature, which was also a resident of that beautiful place. She sets her foot on or near a deadly cobra, which was passing by, and gets bitten.

That bite.. I cannot forget it! Well, I’m still alive!! I was the fortunate one to stare death in its eyes, say hi, and come back... of course with little help from doctors and the ventilator for 2 days.

Well, ‘once bitten by snake, one is scared at mere sight of a rope all his life’ – goes a Chinese proverb. But I was, and I am an exception to that saying. I somehow developed interest in snakes, and started learning more about them.

But, many… are not like me. They have a fear for snakes. Many of us are scared, by just the thought of snakes.

Why? Why are we scared of snakes? .. The fear is rooted in lack of accurate information. Once we are equipped with a little knowledge and understanding of these beautiful, interesting, and inoffensive creatures we will find that there is nothing left to fear.

Snakes are the most modern of reptiles; they are believed to exist during the time of dinosaurs. Snakes are the finest examples of theory of evolution. Their anatomy is such that they can swim at seas, climb trees, crawl in land, and tunnel beneath dirt and sand. They have an important role to play in our ecosystems. They have evolved a great deal to survive - be it adjusting their anatomy, developing infrared heat sensors to find prey, or developing venom to defend themselves from their prey. In short, snakes are incredibly successful, unique and remarkable animals, well deserving of our respect and admiration.

But, for centuries, snakes have figured infamously in the religions, customs, and the folklore. To early humans, snakes might have seemed magical and almost supernatural. Anything, which looks different, is scary for us. Added to that snakes could cause sickness or death just with a single bite. A science fiction writer couldn’t have asked for a better model, so it is not surprising that snakes feature in fictions and myths.

Well, I called snakes ‘inoffensive’, you might not agree with that. Because they bite!!! Yes they do, but let’s try to know a bit about it. There are at about 2500 species of snakes in our planet; among them only 450 species are venomous, and among those 450, only 250 species have venom, which can kill human beings. Lighting kills more people per year than snakebites!! And I am not even talking about Bangalore’s roads!!

Why snakes bite? They bite for 2 reasons – 1. To defend themselves from threats. 2. To get food. When a snake bites a human being it’s mostly for the first reason. Snake is as scared as you when you encounter it; they know that man is most dangerous animal!! And let me tell you, SNAKES DON’T CHASE AND BITE. There is no snake, which can move faster than a human being. I know what you are thinking now – about those Nagin movies!! Well, I can only say any work of fiction is only for entertainment! In the world of fiction snakes can recognize people, remember them for years, and they take grudge on them. But the science proves that snakes have very underdeveloped brains, their learning capacity is very low, and all they can think of is their survival.

One fine day a snake decides ‘Husna is my enemy I need to go bite her’. No matter wherever she is – in college, at home, at party, or may be she’s hiding in a toastmaster’s meeting. The sole purpose of that snake’s life is to bite Husna. Well, this is fiction. Reality is Husna may get a snakebite when she ventures out in a snake’s territory unknowingly, and pose thereat to snake’s life; even in that case snake will try to flee at the mere sight of Husna, and it may bite her only at what-it-thinks unavoidable situation.

Well, we are scared by a mere sight of a snake - be it venomous or not. Some say they look very mean. What gives them the mean look? Their eyes and that forked tongue. The eyes of snakes look mean because they don’t have eyelashes. Instead they have a thin skin covering on their permanently open eyes. And the forked tongue is not actually a tongue, it’s sensory organ thru which they can smell the surroundings. Snakes have very bad hearing and vision. They poorly try to make up for it by having a smelling organ and their ability to sense the movement of other creatures thru vibrations of earth. Snake charming, which is popular in India, is actually a fake show put up by the charmer. Snake would definitely listen to brand new album of Shakira instead of that boring instrument if it could listen to music!

India is often called ‘the land of snakes’, true to our fame in the mythological and folklore stories. Snakes often appear as characters in Hindu mythology, and we even have a festival called nagpanchami on which people worship snakes. Well, we are not the only ones to worship snakes. People of Egypt do it too. But in the west, snake is considered as a symbol of evil; in the Bible, devil appears in the form of a snake and tempts Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Snake finds its place not only in Chinese mythology but also in Chinese recipes! Yes, in china snake meat is a delicacy; and in some far eastern countries snake meat and snakes blood is believed to have medicinal values!

Well, from temples to food platters, from bollywood’s Nagin to hollywood’s Anaconda... they are everywhere. True, they play devils in the world of fiction, but let’s get to reality and treat them as just fellow beings. A hiss in the neighborhood doesn’t mean that someone is out to get you. So when you see a snake chasing the poor heroine on screen next time, don’t hate the snake; hate the director!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Shri,
Good one. I loved the first para to max.
I was brought in a village were first thing my father did was to wake up the snakes in our house.
I have seen quite a lot of them.

I have not stepped on any one yet,but then have stepped on my leg :-)

Shrilatha Puthi said...

snakes stepped on ur leg?!! that's quite scary..