A Saviour of Dreaded Ones

Uday Mittal

Virender Sood had his first encounter with a snake in 1961 at the age six when he and his classmate saw a snake in their passage while crossing through a rice field in a village near Palampur in Himachal’s Kangra district.
An aged farmer, who was working in the field, politely handled the snake and threw it away. He told boys that if handled carefully, snakes do not harm anyone, and that was the first lesson Virender Sood learned about handling snakes.
Virender Sood recalls that the first time when he himself handled a snake, was somewhere in 1962 when he had gone to bring drinking water from a locally-made water tank (बावड़ी). There, he saw a snake with a frog held between its jaws that the snake had caught for his breakfast. Virender used a branch of a tree to gently push the snake out of the water tank after which he went out on its way, along with his prey – the frog.
These first two encounters with snakes in his early childhood made Virender fearless while handling snakes after which he started saving snakes, and also those humans who had encountered snakes.
Virender Sood – a Chemist by profession, runs a medicine shop near Zonal Hospital at Solan in Himachal Pradesh and sells antidotes of snake venom that save human lives. Simultaneously, he also devote some time to help people by relocating snakes, who accidentally enter human habitats, to their natural habitat – the forests, acting as a saviour of both humans as well as snakes.
From the last four decades, Virender Sood has utilised his snake-handling talent to help hundreds of people and have also rescued hundreds of snakes, injured by other people who fear them.
Whenever he catches a snake, he keeps the snake at his home or shop in a transparent jar for one to five days before releasing it in a forest area away from human habitation.
In the snake’s stay at his home or shop, Virender not only observes the physical attributes of the snake but also its behaviour to increase his knowledge about snakes. He also provides first-aid to wounded snakes before relocating them in their natural habitat.
Sood says that usually people try to kill snakes, even the non-poisonous ones with stones or sticks as a proactive measure, out of sheer fear.
In his spare time, Sood watches TV programs on snakes on TV channels as Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Animal Planet, in order to learn more about snakes. In 70s and 80s when there were no TV programs on snakes, he used to read books on snakes that were available in Solan’s Central State Library.
Virender Sood is a well-known social worker of Solan who keeps helping patients at Solan’s Zonal Hospital.
Sood wants to “document” the data about all species of snakes found in Shivalik Hills so that the record can be utilised by doctors of Himachal Pradesh to stock the “appropriate” antidotes to save people affected by snake-bites and also wishes to contribute to wildlife and environment protection by educating masses about non-poisonous snakes so that people don’t harm the non-poisonous ones.