The snake boy

Debasis Tripathy

Fiction by Debasis Tripathy


I’ve known many eccentric people in my life but as far as I can think, one person really stands out amongst this tribe. This guy had quite an unlikely name for an Indian boy or for that matter for any boy in this world. Well, let rather me focus on his story.

This is how the story began, as I recall and it’s still very vivid in my otherwise failing memory. I first met Epsilon, as I first entered my hostel room, clad in the skimpiest of underwear and smoking (I figured out later that it was hashish). The scene that welcomed me to hostel life was shocking, without overstating. I was a fresher and this was my first day in the college – a single child straight out from a family of over-protective parents.

“Hi, I am Partha. I will share this room with you” I said with a smile that I’d to force out from my gut.

“That’s your bed” was the response from the guy who’d be my room partner. Both of us didn’t care to look up – he out of indifference and I out of fear of ragging. Anxiety coupled with fatigue finally had better of me and before I knew I was soundly sleeping on my cot, which was the hardest surface I’d ever laid myself on. It must have been around 3 AM that I woke up, abruptly because of a bad dream that seemed more real than the surroundings. It was dark except a table lamp in the other corner of the room. There sat meditating on a wooden chair my room partner, clad only in a brief and with a Rudraksha Mala around his neck. He looked like Shiva, the immortal god of emancipation. The smoke of the incense sticks added to the mystery. When I woke up abruptly, he opened his eyes. The faint light that escaped from the background made a halo around his head. It was a spectral sight. “Good morning. Epsilon is my name. You can call me the same. No need to add Bhai or anything” were the words that introduced him to me.

“Epsilon is an unusual name,” I said.

He took some time and explained. He was named Epsilon by his father, who was a great mathematician and from whatever I heard from him, the father was also quite a quite a bizarre person, but after having seen a little of him and this world (where bizarreness is not that rare) I can say with some confidence that Epsilon had superior eccentric genes than his father.

In the next few weeks I found out that Epsilon had failed the exam twice and would continue with me in the class of freshers, but he was pretty cool about it. He told me that since he’d not been promoted he has a right to be treated as a batch mate. By the way he acted so easygoing and carefree, you wouldn’t have guessed that he was too perturbed about staying in the same class for three years. He didn’t seem to put any effort into studying. By studying I mean studying for exams, though he’d read quite a lot on anything beyond the syllabus – mythologies, magic, mathematics, occults and spirits, biographies, universe and what not.

In two months, we were great friends because of varying reasons – I never really had a friend till then and he because, well, he found me a rare good person. He’d share many stories with me – some seemed true, some invented and some a mix of the two but unfailingly they were captivating. I started enjoying them as a teenager who was curious to know more about sex.

One day as we lay in our respective beds in the same room, finding him very engrossed and silent, I asked him casually to start a conversation “What are you reading Guru?”

After an appropriate time, which had become a trademark with him, he said “It’s a book on past life regression, my pet subject.”

“Do you believe in rebirths” he popped out a question. I was not sure if I was, neither did I have any reason not to believe in the concept. I was agnostic. I kept silent.

“I was a snake in my former life” he commented, as if it was the most casual and natural thing in this world like the sun rises every day.

“Oh is it? I could sense it!” I snapped back.

“Don’t be an ass. I know you’re making fun of me” he protested “Well honestly, I don’t have any particular opinion on the subject.”

“I know. I responded because you asked about it.”

“How are you so convinced? Can you see the things from your past now, in your current human birth.”

“As vividly as I can see you” Epsilon said “But let’s not talk any more about it.

You got a girl in your life?” He changed the tracks effortlessly to a territory which I was as less familiar with as the former one.

“Not exactly”

“Good” he acknowledged with such satisfaction that for a moment I thought he was a gay but I promptly rejected the idea as he’d never even hinted at such an inclination, but to test him more I asked “And you?”

He came back with a description of his girlfriend “There is this girl who has been after me since she was born in this world. She is two years younger to me. At one point in time, I was really close to her but she was too overbearing and demanding, so things didn’t work out that well. I lost interest in her. I doubt if a guy like me could ever satisfy her. We are not meant for each other.”

“Very close as in you slept with her?”

“Oh yeah, quite a few times. She never seemed to have enough. I got drained.” “Did I offend you by asking such a personal thing?”

“No, absolutely fine with me.”

“One more question - are you guys still in touch?”

“Well can you believe it - She is in our class, for that matter, your class. I am anyway two years behind, hence with you. I’m pretty sure she has taken admission in our college just to be near me!”

“Oh! Who’s the unlucky one?”

“I think you know her. Let’s talk about it later” he cut short “Why later?” I risked asking this question because my curiosity had turned too headstrong to be subsided.

“Not that I don’t want to share but not now” and it ended there, at least for then. Pretty near a month later, as I entered my room which was, ritually and by common consensus, never locked from inside, I noticed a girl. She was crying. I instantly recognized her even though she looked very different than the last time I saw her, much more charming. She was in the same class as me, though we’d never spoken.

“Come on in, Partha” shouted my friend, as I hesitated and was about to go out.

“Meet Bhavya” he said, as she was hurriedly wiping her tears.

“It’s OK.”

“No, I insist” he commanded.

“I remember I told you about her” Epsilon started after I was seated “I know Bhavya … hmm … since I was born.”

“Hi Bhavya” said I, a little clumsily as a guy does who never had a girlfriend in his life.

“Hi” she said in a quivering voice.

“Well I gotta leave now. The ladies hostel closes at 7” she said and left. No one stopped her or said a bye.

I turned my eyes towards Epsilon who had no remorse on his face. He wasn’t conventionally good looking, but you’d still find him attractive. He had a pointed nose and long ears. He had soft dreamy eyes which could pierce through you, there was something magnetic about his persona. He was slender and with unruly hair he looked like a young Einstein. He was very sensitive but took great care to hide this aspect from others. I watched him quietly. None of us spoke. I could feel his quiet yet disrupted presence. I could hear his breath as I lay down with my eyes closed. I decided to let time heal him.

“Hey, Epsilon, did you misbehave with your girlfriend?” I questioned him the next day.

“Not really.”

“Then why was she crying?”

“Well, she is worried about me. She wants me to focus on my studies, to set my life right.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I have no interest in studies. No interest in this life. I have no motivation. I’ve lost interest in her.”

“Bhavya appears to be a great girl. I hope you won’t regret later.”

“I don’t deny it but I can’t help it. She’s a nice girl, but not my girl for sure. Do you have the patience to hear what I feel?”

“Yes, anytime.”

“I want to share this with you because I know you’re a good guy,” Epsilon started.

“She and I have spent almost our whole lives together so far in this birth as well.

She is two years younger to me and I sense ever since she gathered senses, she has thought of herself as my partner. Everyone started expecting us to be a natural couple. Almost everybody approves us of our relationship – our parents, our neighborhood, the current universe, space and time... But I know it’s not what it appears. I got this special gift of knowing my past life”

“Now, don’t tell me you can also see who Bhavya was in her last birth?”

“Yes, clear as the sky. I know Bhavya since our last birth when she was also a snake. Like this birth, she was after me in our former birth as well and she managed to swerve from my promised path of chastity. I remember very clearly the strong special scent that she was oozing which trapped me. I caught her scent and in no time we were entwined to each other to become one. It was very intense and lasted for long till I was sapped to the last drop of my energy.”

“You mean you’d sex with her, right?”

“Well sort of – sex without any love! In reality, it was a trap. Do you know some of the female snakes are bodily overwhelming than the males? She lured me into sex to enervate me”

“And then?”

“Sexual cannibalism is the word. She swallowed me in one piece. As I entered into her through her jaw I realized my mistake. By then, it was very late.”

“What!”

“Yes” he said emphatically.

I remained silent. I thought it over but couldn’t reach any conclusion. My mind was plagued with snaky thoughts - they were crawling all over.

I spent the entire night tossing and turning in the bed. I never really had to wake up, so for the first time since joining the college I was in the classroom well ahead of time. I spotted Bhavya there and walked up to her.

“Bhavya, I wanted to discuss something to you” I said to her.

“Sure.”

“It’s about Epsilon. Wanted to take your advice as you know him much better than me.”

“I wish!” she said “I am happy that in you he finally has a friend who understand him better than me.”

“Well, I don’t know about that but he does share things with me. Yesterday, he told me a story. Really weird one that is.”

“Is it about his past life where he was a snake?”

I nodded. She kept silent then resumed “Why doesn’t he just do normal things? Study. Focus on the present.”

“I know.”

“You know what, when he told me the story, which seemed more of an excuse to me, I suggested him to concentrate on studies. He told me to mind my own affair and that studying is a waste of time.” She deliberated and went on, “While he was in school he was always at the top of his class, in everything. However once he reached intermediate school his interest had waned, in everything. He was a bit of a genius and I thought it is okay for him to do crazy things. But now when I meet him…”

“Yeah, I am also at my wit’s end” I sort of seconded her.

“I admire Epsilon” she continued. “He’s got a side to him which the world doesn’t know. But now it’s becoming impossible for me to get along with him and his freaky thoughts. I don’t understand him anymore, I really don’t. When he started sharing his insane stories I thought it was a joke, but it evidently isn’t. He’s dead serious.”

“Yes, very insane I also feel. What about visiting a psychiatrist?” I posed a solution.

Bhavya didn’t say anything. I took her silence as a helpless consent. Back in the hostel, Epsilon had gone totally mute. He had not stepped out of the room for two days now. He seemed to be getting worse by the day. I took it as my duty to help him. Pondering over how to deal with it and choosing the proper words, I finally decided to take him head on.

“Epsilon if you don’t mind can I suggest you something?” I said.

“Yes, sure.”

“What about consulting a psychiatrist?”

Epsilon took some time to answer, as he normally did. “You know something?” he said finally clasping his hands “I’ve been seeing a shrink since the end of high school. My parents took me to one. But I’ve to tell you going to a therapist hasn’t helped. I know I am not deranged. I know you don’t agree with me but I don’t blame you. The shrinks just act smart and listen well in return for the hefty fees you pay to them. My people tell me that almost everything I do is weird, but I know I am perfectly fine. Hmm… well maybe not.”

“Are you still on with a psychiatrist?”

“Well, someone better. I am seeing a past-life regression therapist and this time on it is working. He understands my wounds and they lead to my former life.” I shook my head. “Well, there are some things about you that are definitely not normal,” I said.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re looking at your past life for a solution to a problem in this birth. Focus on the present man. It’s the gift you’ve in your hand” “You could be right,” Epsilon seemed to admit, but he changed his mind after a pause of few seconds and said “You seem to be a little too wise for your age. To be honest, I don’t like being one of this race called Homo sapiens. We are a weird species. All of us are obsessed with being too normal. I thought you’d understand me but you are also part of the herd. Being a snake was better.” There was nothing much I could think in my defense and there I stood in front of him – part offended and part sorry. Finally, may be in a fit of my anger that hurt my ego, I said “To tell the truth, I don’t really understand you and your weird dreams. I can’t be you neither can I get into your dreams. I was just trying to help you.”

Epsilon remained silent. The silence sustained for about a week more. I decided to change my room, in fact I managed to get into another hostel leaving my eccentric friend to his own devices.

Two weeks later, I heard Epsilon had left the college. He just vanished without informing anyone, not that there was anyone with whom he was in touch except me. I asked Bhavya about his whereabouts, but she was clueless. We contacted his parents but all they could do was search for him. He was nowhere to be found. Being cut off so completely for me was difficult but as humans normally do I adapted to the change, somehow. Somehow I fitted back to the narrow human definition of normalcy.

***

Three years later, on the final day of my college, I spotted a snake. It was very different from the snakes I’d seen earlier – real and pictures. My instincts told me the snake was poisonous yet it wore a calm demeanor, meant no harm. Shiny indigo in colour, the snake had soft dreamy eyes with a pointed nose but no visible ears. It stopped, raised its head slightly, and stared at me, as if it knew me.

~~~~~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~~~~~

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