I Am Into Snake-Catching Since the Year 2008 and Have Caught About 9000 Snakes So Far.
I always believe that success cannot be defined by one person alone. Success is the goal that we set for ourselves, and once we do, it is undeniable success. The satisfaction and bliss you get when you work is ultimate success. It makes me immensely happy when I come across other women who believe the same, which is why the story of Bhavna Patel is a success story that I did not want to give a miss. Simple and grounded, Bhavna is an animal lover who has evolved in life. Residing in the city of Valsad, Gujarat, Bhavna is amongst the very few women snake catchers the country has. How did it all begin? How brave does one need to be to do something that she does? Here’s is what she has to say.
Tell us a little about your childhood.
I come from a very simple family. I was married off when I was 19 years old to a very nice man. I remember being very meek and afraid of so many things when I was little. I only knew the way to go to school and return back home the same way. I hadn’t seen my own town until I turned 19 and was married. This is the truth of my life. I would stay indoors during the rainy seasons in fear of earthworms. I would sit in one place if I saw a rat in the house. I was hardly interested or drawn towards the life of animals and birds. In fact, I was scared of them.
My family was very simple, yet conservative. My community also believes in the system of Dowry. The life of a woman is enclosed in the doors of the mother’s house and later the husband’s house. People were either farmers or took care of cattle and other domestic animals. I also lived a very good but restricted life until I got married to my husband, Sailesh Mohanbhai Patel. When I look back at those days, I remember how I feared seeing someone’s last rites or even an accident for that matter!
You are doing something very different from the other women. How did you start this profession of snake catching?
My husband was a member of the Jeev Daya Group Paradi Sanstha that was in the business of saving and catching poisonous as well as non-poisonous snakes. They organised blood camps, arranged for school fees for poor children and also provided them with necessary items apart from the many other social deeds they carried out. When I came to know about this, I got the feeling that I was unsafe in life. I wondered what would happen if my husband would be bitten by a snake and die? My family members were also concerned about my life. I also thought that donating blood leads to weakness and the body becomes a house for many diseases. My husband took matters in his own hands and groomed me in the work he did. He trained me to catch snakes as well for me to believe that I was over-thinking. He gave me the courage I missed. Today I am also a member of the group and am a member of the group- Friends of Animals. I am also associated with Police Samanvay Group.
When on the job, have you been bitten by any snake?
I am available for work 24 hours a day. Whenever I get a call for the requirement of a snake catcher, I am there. I have never been bitten by a snake so far. When I go to rescue a snake, I give it my complete attention. I do not bother about the people who crowd around me at that time.
Is this just your profession or is this also your hobby? Do you make money out of what you do?
I used to fear snakes when I was young, but not anymore. To save the environment, our nature and the animals that live in it is now my hobby. I provide this service for free of cost. I follow the rules of the Forester and carry out this work with my own money. In due course, if I ever get bitten by a snake, I would bear all hospital bills. If things go worse and I die, I do not want to claim any rewards in form of money from any organisation. I am into snake-catching since the year 2008 and have caught about 9000 snakes so far. I give the snakes to the Forest Department after I catch them. I do this out of my love for the community and not for money.
What happens to the snakes/animals you catch?
When I get a call for rescue, I collect all information of where the snake has to be rescued from. I maintain a form that includes all details of the house where the snake was found, the owner’s details, the type of snake, the length of the snake, the thickness of the snake, etc. I then submit the snake and all related information to the Forest Office Department in Vapi.
What does your family think about what you do? Are they supportive of this or are they scared?
Only my husband supported me in the beginning. It took time for the other family members to understand the work I was doing, and also why I was doing it. They were worried about me. My husband had to face a lot due to the same. I give the credit of my success to my husband. My father-in-law also did not support me in the beginning but today he is standing by me at all times. My son Samarth who is in Grade 10 and my daughter Khyati in the 7th Grade are also very supportive.
Do you travel a lot to do this work? What is your end goal?
I travel 50-100 kilometres every day to catch snakes. I do this only to serve people and to make sure that the animals are safe and are not injured. Women are not weak anymore and neither are they backward. I request all women to now to be working professionals along with taking care of their family and giving their children proper education. Maintain cleanliness at all times and serve the society with a big heart.
You are living life with a difference and that is very inspiring. Can you give the many other women reading your story a message?
Serve the environment and protect all animals; even the snakes, whether they are poisonous or not. Organise blood banks every year and try to submit at least 700-800 bottles. If you find animals on the road that are stray or injured, seek help or send them to Panjrapole.
If you find a dead animal on the road, dig up some mud and bury it with respect and rituals. Donate unused clothes to the Adivasi people with my group during Diwali. Associate with my group to educate school and college children about the safety and protection of animals. Make umpteen attempts to educate children about the rules of traffic and road crossing in the presence of Police or Traffic Police. Teach them the rules of safe driving as well. Join our group in saving the birds that are injured during the festival of Sankranti and Uttarayan. Support the police during major festivals and find safer means for Ganapati Visarjan by organising water camps. Serve the society!
I pray that I can work in this Jeev Daya Group along with my family members till my last breath.
Bhavna Patel’s story left me craving for more! I took from her story that, it only takes some will and a strong support to overcome all fears in life. Success is not just about one’s own progress, but it is also about serving others. This results in a successful nation after all! The thoughts that she imparted, the beliefs she lives with and the fears that she has overcome is a story that should cross borders!
A very Happy Woman’s Day to you!