Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

A Python for Dinner

Note: Please note that this article contains images of raw meat. If this is offensive to you do not read further.

“Mom what’s for dinner” “Stir Fried Python”

This would have seemed a bit outlandish had I not seen this first hand in a Bidayuh community home in tribal Sarawak, Borneo.

Most tribes of Sarawak live in home called ‘longhouses’ that have private quarters as well as shared spaces. The shared space fosters social bonding that was once critical in the days of the headhunting inter-tribe war.

The housing structures are made of bamboo and wood and are built on stilts with each tribe following a unique design that is a tribal signature.

And so as I climbed up the stairs to reach the common hallway with the driver and the hotel guide, I see 2 men washing something at a tap.

They looked ordinary and they exhibited no signs of doing anything extraordinary and so I did not notice them.

But my driver did – and pointed out the extraordinary event that I was about to witness – for the first  (and I am sure also the  last ) time!

They were preparing a python for cooking!

The fat python had just been chopped into 4 parts and the first part was now being scaled. Just like a fish is scaled!

Then the man slit the foot long piece lengthwise and got rid of the innards and opened it up flat. It looked like a clean large chunk of white meat.

The second man continuously poured water over the man’s hands and the snake to keep the working area clean.

The head had been discarded so upon my request they took it out of a bag in which all the unwanted parts were kept. Yellow eyes.

I had no idea that looking into those eyes could still evoke some primal fear in me…

The men cleaned all the pieces and then it was handed over to the women to cook.

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I asked if traps need to be laid out to catch snakes. And they said that these creatures are abundantly available so one just has to go looking and something could be found easily. Trap-laying was for hard times when hunters were faced with scarcity.

I didn’t stay for dinner – [as I was not invited ] and went on to the next experience in the longhouse.


May 2012

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