"Rescuing snakes is not my profession. It is just everything for me," says Suresh.
Suresh is 41-years-old and a resident of Sreekaryam town in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district. But he's better known by a nickname that is associated with him after having rescued over 50,000 snakes so far: Vava Suresh (Baby Suresh, which is what his mother called him).
Search for Vava Suresh on YouTube and you'll come across numerous videos of him catching snakes in various ways (see an example below). This Class 10 graduate is among the foremost snake conservationists in the state and has been working on rescuing the reptiles for the last 27 years.
Suresh says he developed a fascination for snakes when he was a 12-year-old, and what was just a craze initially over the years became a full time profession.
"The last 27 years, catching snakes and rescuing them by safely transporting them back to their natural habitat has been the sole obsession of my life," he says in a telephonic interview.
Suresh's typical day starts with a phone call from someone who has spotted a snake in their house or their area. Sometimes these calls take him across the state. He doesn't have a fixed rate for his services and says he happily accepts whatever people give him.
"Whenever I go to rescue snakes from people's homes, 90 percent of the time I do not get paid for it. It is because those people are poor. How can I ask them for money?
"Snakes only enter into poor people's homes. Have you ever seen a rich man's house infested by snakes?" he says.
Several non-government organisations like Rotary Club and Lions Club often come forward to provide monetary aid. Suresh says he also gets financial assistance from many friends and well wishers abroad.
He hasn't received much support from the government, but was offered a job.
"I was given an offer to work as a conservator on a meagre daily wage which was not a permanent job. I did not take it up as it would have restricted my area of work and would have paid me much less," he says.
Suresh says he's been bitten by snakes 3,701 times, and has been hospitalised several times. Not surprisingly, his family members have advised him many times to find an alternate career. But Suresh says his 10 trips to the ICU so far only motivated him further.
A valuable ally, he says, has been veterinary surgeon at Thiruvanathapuram Zoo, Dr Jacob Alexander, who has ensured Suresh always had anti-venom when needed.
Even when he's not rescuing snakes, he's busy.
"When I am not busy rescuing snakes, I give classes about snakes and their venom for the general public especially in schools and institutions. In a way, you can say that I work for 365 days," says Suresh.
He has one major grouse against the people he assists: that they're afraid of snakes and consider all of them deadly.
" Be it in Ayurveda or Allopathy, it has been proved multiple times that a snake's venom plays an instrumental role in making life saving drugs. Still it is really sad that snakes are considered deadly and its venom is termed as poison"
Suresh says that he will continue working in this field till his death and it's definitely not for setting records or for the many awards he has received.
"I started working much before people in India started talking about all these high profile Nat Geo and Discovery channels. Honestly I don't care much about awards," he says
(All images sourced from Facebook/Vava Suresh)