Part Eight: Charming the Snake Charmer

In the morning at a seedy guest house, the snake charmers don’t seem to be home. From the balcony we see two shady guys walking up. Manoj runs down to meet them. One somehow vanishes. The other we meet at the stairs, Manoj points at me and says “snakes picture.”

He lets us into his room– coiled up into tiny cramped wooden boxes, are two cobras and a rat snake. There are two other dirty wooden boxes, they are filled with herbs, roots, bones, horns, antlers, a golden eagle’s head… Manoj identifies each specimen. He explains how it’s not legal to keep snakes or remains of protected animals, and that he’s going to confiscate them. The snake charmer is scared, sad, yet understanding. Manoj explains to the man that he can still use all the plants and herbs and cast his spells and make charms for people, but just not use snakes or animal remains.

Somehow he seems to have made friends with him. They laugh together. That’s his gift– winning people over with his respect­– for them, for their animals, and his idealism for how they should be treated.

We leave with the snakes in boxes, and the bag full of animal remains.

He called the department of forestry officer and asked where they should be brought, back to Katmandu, or to the community forest. The officer defers to Manoj’s opinion.

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