Re: Girl with Snakes
This little charmer calls these King Cobras her best friends - even though she has survived three venom-filled bites from them.
Villagers in Ghatampur, Uttar Pradesh, India, run in fear when they see eight-year-old Kajol Khan wandering the dusty streets with her deadly friends wrapped around her neck.
She said: 'I have a lot of fun with the cobras. It hurts when they bite me but sometimes it’s my own fault because I tease them. It’s quite funny.'
Kajol's father, Taj Mohammad, 55, has worked as Ghatampur's snake catcher for the past 45 years.
He has already passed on his skills to his son Gulab, 28. But now it seems Kajol, the youngest nine, is keen to join the family business.
'I don’t like school,' she said. 'I much prefer working with the snakes.'
Her bond with the creatures - which stems from crawling around them as a baby - now means they are her favourite companions.
Since her friendship with the killers began she has been bitten on her stomach, her cheeks and most recently her arm. She was seriously ill but made a full recovery.
'It hurts when they bite me but they don’t mean it,' she said. 'I get a little frightened when I see the blood but my father sorts me out. He rushes into the forest and comes back with the medicine.'
Kajol's father is now famous in his region and is nicknamed Bhura (the snake-catcher). But he earns a measly £14 a job for catching the snakes from houses and shops in the area.
'We help people in the area and catch the snakes that have slipped into their homes,' Taj said.
'My father is a snake catcher, his father was a snake catcher. It’s our family business and we’re very proud of what we do.'
The medicine comes from the leaves of a wild plant, which remains top secret.
It gets mashed to a pulp and mixed with butter and black pepper. It is then eaten and rubbed on the wound.
'If the medicine is administered quickly enough it will save you,' Taj said. 'It has saved my life many times and it seems to work for Kajol too.'
But Kajol's mother, Salma Bano, 45, wishes her daughter would grow out of the snake-phase - especially since the youngster was expelled from school for taking her pets to class in her backpack.
'I want her to go to school like other children. If I had my own way I’d get rid of the snakes but she loves them and so I don’t want to break her heart,' said Salma.
'She now refuses to study and will play with the snakes all day.
'I try to make her study at home but she keeps the snakes with her and gets distracted.'
Taj said: 'We don’t have many visitors. People don’t like our pet snakes so they stay away.
'We don’t mind so much, but it’s sad for Kajol. Children are too scared to come round and play with her. She’s just not like other children.'
Her worried mother added: 'She’ll find it hard to find a husband in the future if she doesn’t stop playing with the snakes.'