Komberi Mookan – #FFfAW 122 (July 4, 2017)


Photo credit: Kecia Spartin

“Listen, woman. I need this building. It’s in a prime location”, Ponrayan spat at Lakshmi. He owned liquor shops and was looking to expand.

“Sir, but the school?”

“Pah! Curses. Tell you what! I’ll give my land. Build your filthy school there.”

The proposed site was outside the village. Commute would become a huge problem for the children.

“You have till evening. I’ll get this building anyhow.”

The threat was real.

Lakshmi’s grandfather Muthukalai went to meet Ponrayan on her behalf. He was much revered in their tiny village. Within ten minutes Ponrayan dropped all his claims on the property.

That evening, Lakshmi and Muthukalai were sitting under the huge peepal tree in the school grounds. Muthukalai was engrossed with the branches.

“What happened, thatha?*”

Muthukalai smiled, “Look over there”. Up in the branches, a snake slithered towards a crow’s nest. “I told him that this site is home to few Komberi Mookans†.”

Lakshmi sniggered, “But, aren’t they non-venomous?”

He shrugged, “Well, Ponrayan would have known that if he had ever stepped inside a school.”

NOTES: * Thatha – Grandfather in the South Indian language of Tamil

Komberi Mookan – Dendrelaphis tristis (bronzeback or Daudin’s bronzeback) is a species of tree-snake found in South Asia

Myth – In rural parts of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, people believe that Komberi Mookans are very vengeful. If Mookans are wronged, according to belief, they extract their revenge by imparting a lethal bite and follow the corpse until they are buried or cremated.

Fact – Komberi Mookans are non-venomous and they prefer to live in trees. They prey on small birds and rodents.

Word Count: 175

This piece of fiction is in response to FFfAW Challenge 122 hosted by Priceless Joy.

You can add your entry and find other awesome entries here.

Update: I’m entering this piece for YeahWrite.me’s fiction/poetry challenge #325



  1. Within the first two words of the story, you had me disliking Ponrayan. Great job with characterization. A few of the explanations (He owned liquor shops; Commute would be a huge problem) lacked the energy in other parts of the story.


  2. I’m a huge fan of reframing old narratives, and I really like what you’ve done with the Komberi Mookan stories here. Superstitions are so ingrained in some of us (*cough* I am no exception), and you used that fact well to establish your narrative arc. The time jumps in your piece were a little jarring for me. The interaction between Lakshmi and Ponrayan cut a little too abruptly to her Thatha meeting Ponrayan. The jump back to the interaction between Lakshmi and Muthukalai was smoother, though. I know the word limits can be a constraint, but it’s a great way to tighten a story so you’re really conveying the essence.


  3. I’m always a fan of trickster stories – and you did a good job including the context a reader unfamiliar with the area might need without breaking up the flow of the story for folks who had a grounding in those basics.

    (As a gentle aside, YeahWrite prefers that pieces for our grids not be cross-linked to other challenges, as this can lead to accidental votes on our grid from folks unfamiliar with our voting rules and guidelines. In addition, we think that focusing on your work and your audience for each challenge, whether ours or elsewhere, will make you a better writer faster than “shotgunning” your work out to a dozen challenges trying to score a vote somewhere for affirmation. You’re certainly a good enough writer not to need to do that.)


  4. First of all, congrats for a beautiful story. I liked the staccato style and the dialogues and voice of each of the characters. I am going to follow your writings very closely from now on as i like to appreciate good writing. Keep surprising me pleasantly , L.E.R.T.
    Just an aside, L.E.R.T is what i call you or do you have a name?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha ha, great last line — I’m glad the school has Muthakalai on its side, he’s a smart one! Interesting note about the myth versus fact about these snakes, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Muthukalai is smart and worldly. Ponrayan had no chance. These bronzebacks can be found in most places within Asia. But they have attained mythical status in one part of the whole continent. And the myth actually helped me bat for education. Thanks for the reply. Glad you liked it. Cheers, Varad.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic take on the prompt, wow! You’ve closed it up so nicely at the end there, despite the small word count. You write so well, thanks for sharing the talent 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here. Actually I have a phobia of all creepie crawlies. But the legend of Komberi Mookan has remained within me right from the time my grandpa told me thirty years ago. And this story just wrote itself. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

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