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Snake, his ladder to fame

Mano's aim... to enter the Guinness Book of Records


THEY CALL him `Snake Mano.' He's a self-styled 25-year-old entertainer, whose performances require a public health warning and have been known to make people sick. No surprise, then, that he is on his way to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mano proved himself a worthy contender for the Guinness, when he swallowed 200 earthworms in 20 seconds, last month to better the record set by Mark Hogg of America in the year 2000. (Hogg had swallowed 94 night crawlers in 30 seconds.)

The episode might be the latest among Mano's weird acts but it is certainly not the `most shocking.' As Mano himself admits it is "my tryst with snakes that earned me the name and popularity."

From C. Manoharan to `Snake Mano,' the role the reptile played or was rather forced to play in his transformation into a daredevil is intriguing. Snakes were live toys for him to stun friends and with the dexterity of a magician he would ease them into his nostril and pull them out through his mouth. And except for pythons he has experimented with almost all varieties of snakes, including cobras and common kraits sand boas and rat snakes. "The longest one I have used is a three-and-a-half feet pacha pambu (green vine snake)," proclaims Mano, proudly. Nevertheless cobras are his favourite, "Their ferociousness and agility give more life to them than any other snake," he explains.

Sitting in his residence at Tambaram, Mano is all set to play out the feats before us. Untying a gunnysack he pulls out a ferreting cobra and proceeds to remove its venom. His friend offers a blade to open its mouth, but Mano waves him down saying that he can manage with his hands. And using his thumb and index finger, he pries open the cobra's mouth and extracts the venom on to a towel. He then slides the snake into one of his nostrils and inhales it through the nasal passage until its tail comes out through his mouth. Later, he pulls the snake out, by its tail.

A high school dropout, Mano's odd passion can be traced to his school days when as an eight-year-old he would amuse his friends by inserting pieces of chalk and erasers into his nostril and pulling them out through his mouth. Later, without the knowledge of his parents he started practising with manjha (the thread used for flying kites). "It used to bleed initially, but slowly my nasal cavity became rough," he recalls. His first attempt with a snake was at the age of 18. "It was a half dead thanni pambu (water snake)." The attempt was successful and his photograph splashed in a regional magazine.

Egged on by friends and mediapersons, Mano went on to do more outrageous acts for fame and publicity. He started eating lizards, cockroaches, grasshoppers and snakes during his shows. "It was with the encouragement I received that I went on to do such wacky stuff," he says nonchalantly. However, things began to get out of hand when rashes started appearing all over his body. "My blood was poisoned and the doctors advised me to go in for blood transfusion." Since he was acting in serials and films, his co-workers too began to distance themselves from him because of this. "This hurt me deeply and I decided to kick the habit for good. For the last two years I haven't had any reptiles or insects," he assures. Ironically his next film "Kaattu Poochi" wherein he plays the eponymous role has a lot of resemblance to his real life character. Call it a reel taste of life!

SANGEETH KURIAN

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