Published: 25th April 2020
This man from Cuttack rescues snakes and feeds stray dogs every day, despite the lockdown. This is his story
Suvendu Swain gets six to seven calls for snake rescues every day and he heeds each and every one of them. He has even started feeding stray dogs in many areas, which is his latest initiative
Lockdown or no lockdown, snakes continue to trouble the residents of Odisha with their surprise visits and have an uncanny knack of turning up at the most unexpected times. Take the following instance, for example. In Kendrapara, two cobras emerged in a mud house of a poor family, situated on rented land. The residents of the mud house panicked and so did the villagers. They immediately called Suvendu Swain, their go-to snake rescuer and Unit Incharge of People For Animals (Founded by Maneka Gandhi, BJP MP and animal activist) - Cuttack Sardar Unit.
This youngster, who has been rescuing snakes since 2006, travelled 40 km to reach the mud house. Using all his experience and learning, he managed to rescue one snake and as he wasn't able to find the other, so he left. Without taking any money from the villagers. Halfway to his home, he got a call saying the other snake has been spotted and requesting him to come back quickly. "The panic in their voice was so evident. They alternated between threatening me and requesting me. So I went back because I knew that if the snake is not rescued, the family will not be able to sleep in their house that day," says Suvendu, who is also a scuba-diving enthusiast. And thus, even though the lockdown is longer than we imagined, snakes continue to do what they please and Suvendu continues to do his job, even though all his fellow-rescuers are stuck at home.
Rescued it | (Pic: Suvendu Swain)
The snake man
Currently, Suvendu gets six to seven calls per day, as compared to two to three he used to get before the lockdown. He attributes this point to the fact that there are not many rescuers who are working on-field currently. He ensures that he equips himself with gloves, masks and a bottle of sanitiser before stepping out for any rescue and since all policemen know him and he has acquired permission since his work falls under emergency services, he travels smoothly between Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and other areas on his bike. "It is during summer and monsoons when we get the maximum number of calls so now is the time when there is a lot of work to be done in many areas," he points out. He doesn't take any money to perform any rescue activities, no matter how far. Especially if he sees that people are themselves in need of money. It is his friends and well-wishers who support all his activities.
Feeding dogs | (Pic: Suvendu Swain)
For the streeties
Talking about the strays dogs, Suvendu is helping them through the lockdown too. But his love for stray dogs is not newfound. Even before the lockdown, on his way to the rescues, whenever he would stop, he would take five to ten minutes to purchase a biscuit packet and feed it to nearby stray dogs. "After the lockdown, one day, I spotted a stray dog who literally looked like it was in tears and because all shops are closed, I wasn't able to purchase any biscuits either. So I started making some food for them myself," says the passionate rescuer. He cooked rice and dal and mixed it with chicken and soybean. A cumbersome process indeed, especially if one needs to feed over 150 dogs. He starts by feeding the ones near the famous Bijay Dhaba in Cuttack. From there, he covers other areas like the station and then the area around Ravenshaw College. Founder of Animal Welfare Trust, Ekamra suggested that he make the feed with chuda (flattened rice flakes), which are easier to cook. So he started to purchase five kg of chuda, mixed 20 eggs and three litres of milk and started serving it to stray dogs, who, to his surprise, lapped it up with glee. "One day, I took a break and decided to not feed them or perform any rescue activities because I was so exhausted. I hardly get three to four hours of sleep. So the next day, when I went out to feed the dogs, it seemed like they were accusing me, asking me why I did not feed them yesterday. Since then, I decided to feed them every single day," he says sincerely. Currently, he is looking for funds so that he can reach out to more and more street dogs. "We are trying to inspire others to feed stray dogs around them too. I am alone, I can't find every dog. So please, let us all do our bit," he implores.
In the process of rescuing | (Pic: Suvendu Swain)
Suvendu was very young when his parents passed away. One of the strongest memories he has is that of his mother, who was an ardent lover of animals, wherein, he hit a snake as a child and, in turn, his mother thrashed him. "Since she passed away, I have only tried to do what she likes. This is one of the strongest reasons I took to animal rescue," says the 31-year-old. He then spent over one and a half year training himself in snake rescuing by reading and watching videos, especially that of Romulus Whitaker, Indian herpetologist, wildlife conservationist and founder of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. "Actually, I am Ekalavya (a student from Hindu mythology known for his dedication to his guru) and Whitaker sir is my Dronacharya (a noted guru). I am extremely inspired by him," he shares enthusiastically. The youngster has even had the chance to meet the man in person, whose wise words still echo in Suvendu thoughts, "You don't need to catch a snake, you need to rescue it." He also understood nitty-gritties like how does one understand which snake has been spotted, how can one know if it is poisonous or not and so on from Pratyush Mohapatra, Zoological Survey of India, Central Zone Regional Centre, Jabalpur. In 2012, when he was coming back from a rescue, Suvendu lost his left leg, but did not lose his spirit. He continued to perform rescue operations with the help of an artificial leg and does so till date.