There are hundreds of genre of snakes. One of the breeds is said to be of flying snakes. As the very name suggests, this snake flies. Have you ever seen one? Even I haven’t. However, a true story, I came across during my visit to Bandikui is here for you (as told to me by Kalyan Sahay Gaur, a retired Railway man of the era gone by).
Long long ago, during British Raj there was this C class station called flag station or way side station in Railway parlance. You might have noticed those tiny stations in your train journey when your train speeds by and there is this Assistant Station Master with green flag held at right angle from the ground. One Braj Gopal was the Station Master of this C class station. He was quite fond of ‘Bhaang’ (marijuana). During festive season folks in Rajasthan do indulge in merry-making by way of liberally consuming bhaang. Some of Braj Gopal’s staff made a rather strong potion and he along with his friends had more than he could hold. Since it was a shift change time, the staff including the Station Master who came to relieve Braj Gopal was also generously invited to the ‘party’ and offered liberal helpings of bhang. All the ‘guests’ of party were already sozzled and on a ‘high’. They had all rather forgotten that they were ‘on duty’. They were all too inebriated to remember that they were on duty. They had also forgotten that which trains are expected when, which trains required ‘line clear’ and which trains require ‘point setting’ through signal and caution order etc. All were in a trance. A train, not finding green signal is required to halt and give long whistles at the outer of station section, as per operating manual. Despite constant long whistles there was no green signal forthcoming Driver of the train, an Anglo-Indian, finding no signal and no effect of his constant whistling was annoyed. Driver and Guard together is the owner of the train in the mid-section. To say the Anglo-Indian driver was furious will be an understatement. The set rule in such eventuality is to uncouple the engine and ‘pilot’ it slowly into the station while continuously blowing the whistle.
The whistle sound closing by was enough to sober our party people. They staggered on their feet. Suddenly it dawned upon them what it means to be found ‘drunk’ on duty with train desperately languishing at outer. They realized they are going to summarily lose their jobs. Braj Gopal, the Station Master got brightest idea flashed in his mind. His room contained all the instruments of giving line clear and communication apparatus, he locked his room from outside and sat at the doorstep with a long face. When the driver shouted at Braj Gopal “Hey Man! What’s wrong?” Braj Gopal with suitable stammer in tongue and tremble in body replied “there is a flying snake in my office ... with great difficulty I have got the room locked before it could bite anyone... I have called the snake charmer... It is just not possible to open the cabin before that… who will open? Only the one who wants to commit suicide can open the lock, here is the key. No joke. It’s a flying snake, flies right at you aiming for your forehead. Once bitten, the death is instant. Not another moment. You may go …do whatever...I can’t risk life of my staff. Hearing this, driver too lost his nerve. He instantly calmed down. The entire train was piloted to the next station. From the cabin of next station, Control Room was informed of the flying snake. Mind of Braj Gopal was racing like Toofan Mail (Rajdhani Express or Shatabdi Express were yet to be introduced) how to come out unscathed from this entire flying snake saga. Men were sent in all the ten directions (North, South, East, West, North East, North West, South East, South West, Skyward (tree tops) and underground (snake pits) to catch a snake, flying or no flying, dead or alive. Alas! All came empty handed. They were wondering the snakes, hitherto galore in the area, where have they all vanished. Till yesterday one could not have ventured out to adjacent mangrove without spotting a couple of snakes with or without venom.
Next morning when a staffer was up on neem (margosa) tree looking for a twig to brush his teeth, he located a baby viper. He shouted “Mass Saab! Mass Saab! Snake!” The Station Master couldn’t ve asked for more. It was dream catch. Immediately a cloth was thrown at baby viper to confuse him and poor fellow got caught for no fault of his. He was consigned to a pitcher. Pitcher was sealed. The seal was duly signed by three employees; a kind of ‘panchnama’ and a paper slip was promptly pasted on the pitcher. The slip read:
1. Name: Flying snake
2. Time caught: 1900 hrs
3. Length: 1.5 yard
4. Color: Jet black
5. Age: Above 100 years
(Estimated by the snake-charmer)
6. Property: Flies, aims and bites only at forehead of anything moving.
7. Effect: Instant death.
A rookie khalasi was handed over the pitcher and assigned the task of carrying the catch to Bandikui to the District Traffic Superintendent. Mr. Jennison, D.T.S. immediately called for Mr Cononi, the Chief Controller and shared his wish to see a glimpse of the legendry flying snake. As it happens in bureaucracy, this order too traveled from the very top and stopped at the junior most staffer. They caught hold of a casual labor and ordered him to break open the seal of the pitcher. Hearing this, the casual labor hid behind the bushes and started crying non stop. “Maai baap I have nine children. I am the only earning member, they will all be orphaned”. The D.T.S. realized the sensitivity of the matter and futility of his desire to see a ‘flying snake’. Promptly, Badri Prasad Chaubey, the Chief Clerk was summoned and instructed to dig a deep pit to bury the pitcher. The secret of the Station Master’s bhang orgy and myth of a flying snake was buried forever.
Years later, superannuated Braj Gopal’s grand children would never get tired of hearing the story of flying snake night after night.As for Braj Gopal, he attributed his entire creative imagination to his favorite bhaang.