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And the ‘Best Actor Award’ Goes To…

Checkered Keelback, Coorg

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…” Churchill’s famous words may well have been said of the Checkered Keelback at the Oscars presentation ceremony, for this serpent is the ultimate thespian, playing multiple roles with effortless ease. Like the best ‘method actors’, Mr. Keelback must have studied his objects of inspiration intensely so he could copy their mannerisms and body language whenever the need arose. And, in the teeming wetlands of Coorg, threat and conflict are omnipresent and constantly test his skills. An extremely aggressive water dweller, what he lacks in venom, he makes up for in attitude, and a ready stock of dramatis personae. When disturbed, he’ll instantly slip into the role of that reptilian hero, the Cobra, by flattening his fore-body, raising it off the ground and presenting a passable imitation of the famed hood. If this doesn’t work, and the intruder comes closer, he sheds his Cobra skin and slips into that of a Shaolin monk, by putting on a martial show; leaping off the ground, lunging and snapping even while airborne. These histrionics are usually a ‘moving’ experience for the audience, which beats a hasty retreat, but for those who need more sensory convincing, the Keelback goes into ‘Skunk Mode’ and releases an extremely foul smelling odour guaranteed to repel anyone without a cold. Our protagonist, however, saves his best performance for the most demanding audience, usually natural predators like the Mongoose. When his strikes prove impotent against this aggressor, he sinks to the ground, and, in slow motion, turns over on his back, maintaining a slow, muscular movement like a snake with its head bashed in. He draws out this tearjerker moment, much like a popular Bollywood superstar (who endorses everything from glycerine to snake oil) till the audience departs, sniffing into its hankies, and he can spring back to life and slither away into the sunset.



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