It was around five years ago that Krishna Sagar, a homeguard with the Telangana police, was strolling in his agricultural field in present-day Wanarpathy district, when he was bitten by a rat snake.
"I immediately killed it and took it to the hospital with me, so that the doctors could identify it. However, without identifying that rat snakes are non-poisonous, they gave me the anti-venom injection," Krishna narrates.
As he immediately began having a reaction, Krishna reached out to Dr Sadashivaiah, an assistant professor and a local government college lecturer.
"He came and identified the snake immediately, and said that it was non-poisonous and gave me another antidote to cancel the reaction of the anti venom. At that time, I felt bad that I had unnecessarily killed a snake, especially one that is helpful to farmers as it eats rats," Krishna added.
Thus began the journey of the 35-year-old, who is presently attached to the Wanarpathy town police station.
"I decided to learn more about snakes and study about them. I started speaking to people who knew about the reptiles and also started reading anything I could get my hands on, besides using the internet. First, I learnt to identify which snakes are poisonous and which are not," Krishna said.
"My brother had a snake catching clamp which he was not using. So, I took that and started to learn how to catch a snake and which side I should lift them from. For example, if you catch by the tail, it turns towards you and if you catch near the head, it won't be able to turn. Such things I learnt on the internet and also saw many videos of how professionals were catching snakes on YouTube. Slowly, I became more aware and learnt how to do it," he added.
Around four years ago, as Krishna began catching a few snakes after distress calls from known acquaintances, he began posting some photos on Facebook and started gaining popularity among the locals.
"Once, there was a snake which found its way to a public function. At that time, some local media people had clicked photos of me and shared my number in the paper. Since then, I started receiving calls as the news went viral. It went from one call a day to two-four and it has only been increasing," Krishna said.
Krishna claims to have caught more than 500 snakes so far, as he gets at least 7 to 8 calls for help every single day. However, many times the snakes slip away as locals run away from the spot out of fear. Despite this, the homeguard rescues at least two to three snakes a day, he claims.
"It has become such that I'm a snake catcher more than a homeguard now. The calls keep coming day and night," he chuckles.
When asked if he fears that he might get bitten, Krishna says, "We have a local government hospital with a resident doctor, ambulance and medicines, so I do not fear it. At the same time, I have also been spreading awareness, appealing to people not to succumb to local treatments and directly call the ambulance or call me, because that offers them the best chance."
Krishna states that there have even been cases when people called him and he then rushed them to the hospital.
"Even now, I am training a group of around 25 students when I have time. If there is a docile snake, I take it and show them how to handle it," he says.
What does he do with the snakes that he catches? "We release them around 5 km away from Wanarpathy town, in a deep forest near Thirumalaiah gutta. We try to find water sources and leave them close by, to ensure that they are safe," he explains.