Pradeep Pattanayak

Different people have different hobbies. Some take up gardening, and others choose caring animals. But only a few go for catching snakes as it requires skill as well as courage. Riya Nayak, a resident of Muktapur village under Begunia block in Khordha district, is one among those few and has become a go-to person in the locality whenever a snake, how venomous it may be, is spotted. 

Till her marriage, Riya like any of us was also afraid of snakes. After her marriage to Bipin Nayak, a snake catcher, she saw her husband catching snakes and slowly her fear disappeared. She was so fearless that she asked her husband to teach her the skills to catch reptiles. 

Now she is a trained snake catcher. Clad in a saree and armed with a snake-catching stick, she can often be found in her village or in neighbouring villages catching snakes, from small to big, from poisonous to non-poisonous. 

“Before marriage, I had never caught a snake. After marriage, I received training on how to catch a snake for two months. Now I have been catching snakes for eight months now,” said Riya. 

“Often I receive calls while doing some household chores. In that case, I asked my mother-in-law to take care of the chores and go out to attend the call. And my family members are also very supportive,” she added. 

“I started catching snakes in my childhood days. As I grew up, it became a habit. Now I am getting calls from places 60 to 70 kilometers away from our village. Besides catching snakes, I am creating awareness among the people to end the practice of taking snake-bite victims to quacks or falling prey to any traditional healing methods,” said Bipin, Riya's husband. 

Expressing her happiness, Riya’s mother-in-law Aparti Nayak said, “When she expressed her desire to catch snakes, I didn’t stop her. Now I am happy that they (Riya and Bipin) are catching snakes. I would like to request the government to provide them some assistance so that they can do their jobs in a better way.”

“Earlier, people in our area used to kill snakes. The situation has now changed. Whenever a snake is spotted, instead of killing it people call them (Riya and Bipin). They have also been creating awareness among the villagers to take snake-bite patients to hospital,” said a villager.

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