I am a student of English literature who scribbles behind notebooks in any class other than that of my core subjects. We study plays, novels, epics and poetry and are trained to analyze texts ‘critically.’ The hows and whens and whys and whos are questions we are trained to ask and answer. But to anyone who enjoys poetry and the rhythmic flow of words (or might even have watched Dead Poet’s Society), it is glaringly obvious that poetry cannot be studied and deconstructed like mathematics. So, in lectures that seem dull or just hazardous to my absolute devotion to words and their flow, I choose to tune out.

One such subject is EVS (or Environmental Science). I have always found it extremely dry and study it under compulsion. It was a compulsory course to be taken in one of my semesters and I’d often perch on the last desk and think of Shakespeare, Orwell, Donne or Woolf.

But it was in March of 2020, probably the last or second to last day I ever attended my college, that I had an EVS class. The lecture was on ‘Man-Animal Conflicts’ and discussed different kinds of snakes and how venomous they might be. To my surprise, there exist only 4 kinds of snakes in India that can kill a person by biting them. The rest merely give ‘dry bites.’

“When a venomous snake bites a human being without actually ejecting any venom into his body, it is called a dry bite. The person still dies of fear,” these were my professor’s words that still echo in my mind. The person still dies of fear. Imagine being bitten by a snake with no one around. As soon as the deed is done, the snake slithers away and so does your hope and fight to live. Your heart gives out and just like that, it’s all over. When your relatives find you, they realize there was no venom released into your body that could’ve been fatal for you. You died in hold of that one misconceived thought. It wrapped around your throat and suffocated you before the snake ever even had a chance.

I am sure most of you would have already understood the strength of this metaphor. In life, we often work ourselves into a bad or agitated temper just by fretting over the future. We cease to live in the moment and forget to seize the moment. Most people spend their entire lives thinking of what comes next till they realize there’s nothing much left any longer. So the next time your mind refuses to stop overthinking, think of me. Think of me in my EVS class and why that term caught my attention two very days before the pandemic hit India. It was so I could write this today and remind you to remind yourself “This too, shall pass. It’s only a dry bite. Just a dry bite.” The next time you’re hit by some event that seems impossible to get through, impossible to forgive, forget or let go of, remind yourself, “There was no venom injected if I don’t believe there was.” 

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Viveka Goswami

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