BELAGAVI: , 24, has been in the business – not for profit, mind you – of rescuing snakes for the past 18 years. He has lost count of the number he has rescued, but reckons it is around a staggering 16,000. He loves the slithering beauties and sets them free in the forest once he‘s caught them.
On the eve of Nagara Panchami (August 15), a festival that is traditionally celebrated across the country by offering milk, sweets and flowers to snakes, especially cobras, Chitti and his wife have hit on an idea. They have decided to organise awareness programmes about snakes at Yallur village, Belagavi on Wednesday.

“My job is not just to snakes but also help people get rid of the fear of snakes,” Chitti said. “There are a lot of myths about snakes and much of it is fuelled by fictional stories, movies and soap operas.” He urged people not to waste milk on Nagara Panchami by trying to feed it to snakes since, he said, snakes don‘t drink milk. He also pooh-poohed the belief that snakes wait for years to take revenge as shown in several movies.

Chitti says 90% of people die of fear after snakebite. He has delivered over 700 lectures in schools and colleges and has educated students about the types of snakes, first aid in case of snakebite and the role snakes play in balancing the environment.

Chitti has had one staunch supporter in Nirzara over the past few years. She has caught about 1,000 snakes and Chitti says it‘s no mean feat since she too was at first scared of snakes like almost everyone else. “It took me four years to teach her what I easily teach others in eight to 10 days,” Chitti said.

“It was necessary for my mission to dispel the fear about snakes in my own family first. Now my kids also catch snakes.”

It hasn‘t been all rosy for Chitti. He was bitten by a cobra in 2003 and lapsed into a coma for 33 hours.

But just when everyone thought he would give up rescuing snakes, he refused and even obtained a licence from the forest department in 2005.

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