I had just jumped out of the van, and the little turbaned man crouching in front of a covered basket was the first person I saw in the Sea of Humanity outside a small encampment in the back streets of New Delhi. I had an idea of what was going to happen, so as my colleagues gathered to exchange greetings with a local woman from an activist group, I turned to the man with the basket.
As I approached, he lifted a strange flute fashioned from a gourd with one hand and began to blow a few breathless notes. With the other hand, he tilted the top of the basket and a thin snake appeared before unfolding its frightening hood.
Without thinking, I dropped to the floor in front of the basket, lifted my little Yashica camera, and held the shutter button down as the Indian cobra, one of the most dangerous snakes in the world, wobbled from the ground. menacingly at hand.
My common sense returned and I rolled in the dust of Delhi. A few colleagues who saw me on the ground thought I had tripped. I just brushed off a bit and joined the group. Later I scrolled through the images on the back of the camera, delighted with what I had captured and trying to think of the painful paralysis and death I could have suffered in a Delhi hospital, assuming I would have gone that far.
I’m sure there are people out there who love snakes. I am not one of them. I cannot imagine a life in which I would regularly encounter snakes of all kinds. I don’t regret their existence, but would rather they live their life away from me. That’s why I had to talk to Karen Cartee, one of the few thousand people I follow on social media. She was a professor at the University of Alabama before retiring to the Dothan area several years ago, buying a house in a beautiful neighborhood in the Highlands, next to the Robert Trent Jones golf course, Highland Oaks.