Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and ladders: the race to curb snakebite mortalities in Central India
This longform article covers roughly 150 years of research into snakebite mortalities, snake envenomation, and the reasons of snakebite-related deaths in central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – known to have among the highest death rate in India, majorly because of lack of effective medical care/availability of antivenom, treatment of resulting complications, time taken to reach healthcare centres, and beliefs in traditional antidotes. It also discusses the large gap in monitoring the mortalities and how researchers are innovating medical, ecological, and taxonomic studies of snakes and snakebite envenomation, tied in with my experiences of snake rescue and snake awareness in and around Kanha Tiger Reserve. This is a part of a larger piece tracing the ecological history of central India being presented here for its relevance. With monsoon around the corner, and predictions of new and old land…

The Merrywinkle Grove

1. A foxbee trots in a grove, flower-to-flower,
her tail flailing side-to-side as her wings buzz to-and-fro
Ere darkness she returns to her burrow,
a small furrow, amidst Merrywinkle Grove,
of lush greens and violets against white snow.
A warm hearth in her heart
beats rhythmically to the thrum of the Earth,
waking with a soft glow.
She buzzes ere break of dawn
to visit the lawn unkempt and unowned
in the little farm brazen and forlorn.
In cups of merrywinkle in thickets of pinthorn,
spikelets of ashybrush and bristlecorn,
vines of contorted forms,
Step-by-step, on nimble feet,
she takes a sip, her wings beat,
oh, what fate, in has crept,
of cold sprinkled hate.
2. A fire-tailed rat offers petals to greet, and caches merrywinkle seeds to eat, ten feet ‘neath the peat. When the winds blow cold, with cotton his burrow he’d mould, and sleep on his bed of leaves in autumn breeze. He wakes early at daybreak, with the first summer shake, his blazing tail twitching at the summer’s gale, he inhal…