India has long been known as the land of the snake charmers. But here’s something very unusual. An 8-year-old Indian girl who plays all day not with other girls, but with her pet King Cobras.
Kajol Khan lives in the village of Ghatampur in Uttar Pradesh, with her parents, six sisters, two brothers and six pet Cobras, her best friends. She comes from a family of snake catchers and hopes to carry on in her father’s footsteps someday. Her father, 55-year-old Taj Mohammad has been working as a snake catcher in Ghatampur for the past 45 years. While he has already passed on his skills to his son, he’s unexpectedly found himself a mentor to his daughter Kajol. The little girl has been used to snakes crawling around her since she was a baby, and hence feels nothing out of the ordinary in their presence. In fact, she prefers hanging out with her slithering buddies rather than go to school. She has been bitten – on her stomach, cheeks and hands – but this is hardly of any concern to her. Kajol has always been able to make a full recovery, thanks to her father’s herbal medicine, which has been a family secret for generations. “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.”
Although Kajol and her dad are happy catching and playing with snakes, it’s her mom who worries for her. Salma Bano, 45, wishes for her daughter to stop playing with snakes and go to school. “I want her to go to school like the other children. I try to make her study at home but she keeps the snakes with her and gets distracted.” She’s also worried Kajol will never find a husband in the future if she keeps up her love for snakes. But for now, the little Kajol is oblivious of such things, and evidently the happiest in the company of her snake buddies.