back. A volley of blows reduced him to a squishy-squashy pulp of
black and white jelly, spattered with blood and mud. His head was
“Don’t damage the hood,” yelled one of us. “We’ll take Kala
Nag to school.”
So we slid a bamboo stick under the cobra’s belly and lifted
him on the end of the pole. We put him in a large biscuit tin and
tied it up with string. We hid the tin under a bed.
At night I hung around Gunga Ram waiting for him to get his
saucer of milk. “Aren’t you going to take any milk for the Kala
“Yes”, answered Gunga Ram irritably. “You go to bed.”
He did not want any more argument on the subject.
“He won’t need the milk any more.”
Gunga Ram paused.
“Oh, nothing. There are so many frogs about. They must
taste better than your milk. You never put any sugar in it anyway.”
The next morning Gunga Ram brought back the saucer with
the milk still in it. He looked sullen and suspicious.
“I told you snakes like frogs better than milk.”
Whilst we changed and had breakfast, Gunga Ram hung
around us. The school bus came and we clambered into it with the
tin. As the bus started we held out the tin to Gunga Ram.
“Here’s your Kala Nag. Safe in this box. We are going to
put him in spirit.”
We left him standing speechless, staring at the departing bus.
There was great excitement in the school. We were a set of four
brothers, known for our toughness. We had proved it again.
“A King Cobra.”
“Six feet long.”
The tin was presented to the science teacher.
It was on the teacher’s table, and we waited for him to open
it and admire our kill. The teacher pretended to be indifferent and
set us some problems to work on. With studied matter-of-factness
he fetched his forceps and a jar with a banded Krait lying curled in
muddy methylated spirit. He began to hum and untie the cord
around the box.
As soon as the cord was loosened the lid flew into the air,
just missing the teacher’s nose. There was Kala Nag. His eyes
burnt like embers and his hood was taut and undamaged. With a
loud hiss he went for the teacher’s face. The teacher pushed himself