As many as 27 years ago, when Vava Suresh caught his first snake, he never thought that years later he would be celebrated all across Kerala for the work he does. At 39, Suresh has now caught more than 50,000 snakes and he does all this without a single piece of protective gear. “I don’t use any kind of safety equipment because I don’t want to inflict any kind of pain on them. So the risk in my method is higher and I advise people not to try what I do,” says the Thiruvananthapuram-based Suresh.
Suresh’s snake catching saga began when he would take halts on the way to school or take little detours to watch and understand these intriguing reptiles. Suresh says, “I started catching small snakes on the way to school just for the craze for it. I never had a teacher figure who taught me how to do it.” And that built into a career of sorts. During the early stages, people wanted snakes to be killed and Suresh did it for them. But later he realised the significance of life, “When I grew up and got matured I started realising what noble creatures snakes are. So I stopped being the killer,” he adds.
Just in case you’re wondering — the number of times Suresh had been bitten by snakes is 3,500. Yes, you read that right, out of which 370 were venomous bites. There had been 18 critical cases wherein he had to be hospitalised for days. “The first time I was bitten was 18 years ago, it was a cobra and I needed six months of treatment in the hospital. I still carry the scars from that bite,” he recalls with a grimace.
But it’s not just the snakes that capture his attention. Porcupines, monkeys, small Indian civets and many birds also fascinate him. He has also hatched more than 20,000 cobra eggs. “I do all these with all the time I have, I don’t have any other occupation,” he explains. Suresh has been doing awareness classes for schools, camps, residential associations, travelling through almost all the districts in Kerala.
To spread awareness about the difference between poison and venom, Suresh has drunk venom more than 500 times. “Most people confuse venom with poison, venom is only dangerous once it is mixed with blood” added Suresh. “I keep telling every class I conduct that, what I do is not meant to be imitated. The thing is, my resistance level is higher than others. To get the same effect as others get from medicine for fever I need to ingest 10 tablets.” he says with a laugh.
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