Nitisha and her classmate Harish narrated the whole incident. "He was bitten by a snake ma'am".
"When? And how?"
"Kal raat mein saanp ne kaant liya tha ma'am usko. Woh hamare gaanv se hai ma'am."
"Where did he go in the night that a snake bit him?"
"Kahin nahin gaya ma'am. Ghar mein so raha tha... aur saanp ghar mein aake kaant liya."
"Oh god! Didn't nobody notice? Didn't his parents take him to a doctor?"
"Raat mein teen baje hua tha ma'am. Aur doctor ke paas bhi leke gaye the lekin woh mar gaya. Pehle Gopalpur leke gaye phir wahan se Medical (MKCG, Berhampur) bhi leke gaye."
"Kaunsa saanp tha?"
"Pata nahin ma'am lekin ek chhota sa saanp tha jo ki hare rang mein hoti hai aur uspe blue lines hote hai. Woh saanp na ma'am coconut tree ke phool mein chup jaata hai,"said Monica, Harish's younger sister.
"Is it a rattlesnake," I asked wondering how much of her description is correct and what part of it is her imagination.
"Woh kya hota hai ma'am?"
"Okay never mind, but is this small snake so poisonous that the kid got killed?"
"Haan ma'am, woh bachcha pura peela ho gaya tha."
"Is everyone else in his house safe?"
"Is he the only son?"
"Haan ma'am. Uski ek chhoti behan hai jo mere school mein padhti hai. Donon ek hi kamre mein so rahe the lekin usko kuch nahin hua," answered Monica.
I was speechless and my thoughts kept going back to a lot of other tragic things I've been noticing in this part of the country ever since I moved here. Though I was trying hard to focus on my students, my mind kept drifting back and forth to the kid, and his bereaved family, so I let them off rather early as they wanted to visit the boy's parents.
As I made my way home, the unfamiliar face of a 14-year-old only son of a soldier bitten by a snake kept haunting me, bringing with it many thoughts - mostly revolving around the living conditions here and the lack of basic facilities. Are we living in the 21st century, and progressing at a rapid pace? Really?
May the child's soul rest in peace, and may he be the last child in the village to die due to inadequate and incompetent medical practitioners in the district... may the rest of the children in Digipur and its neighboring villages be safe and healthy! Amen!