Is decency a sign of weakness…?

Vikram Karve
6 min readJan 31, 2024



A Parable For You — The Snake and The Saint
Retold By




A decent individual is often thought of as a weak individual.

I have seen this happening throughout my life — in boarding school — in college — and — more so — in the Navy and Armed Forces — where decency is mistaken for weakness — and decent gentlemanly officers are considered to be soft — whereas bull-shitters rule the roost.

Decency is mistaken for weakness.

To illustrate this phenomenon — let me tell you one of my favourite stories from the parables of Sri Ramakrishna.

The story is called The Snake and The Saint.




A group of persons from a village went to a holy man — a Saint — who was meditating in a cave in the mountains.

They were very terrified — and they complained to the Saint about a large venomous snake who was terrorizing everyone in the village.


The villagers said to the saint:

“This terrible serpent’s hiss can be heard for miles around.

This dreadful creature mercilessly bites everyone.

Sir — this snake is extremely dangerous and does not spare anyone.

He attacks even our wives, our children, our cattle, our dogs — yes — the snake viciously bites everyone he sees.

Even the bravest among us have become afraid to venture out into the fields — which have become dry, parched, uncultivated.

Our granaries are depleted and empty.

Our numbers are dwindling from death by the snake — and by starvation.

Please help us.

You are a great Guru and you alone can subdue and vanquish this terrible snake…”


The Saint — realizing the gravity of the situation — went to the village.

Then — he walked to the place where the snake lived.

As he approached — the terrible venomous snake moved swiftly toward the saint with upraised hood.

The terrified villagers ran away — leaving the Saint to deal with the snake.

The Saint looked at snake — slithering and undulating — his scales shimmering in the sunlight — radiant and shining in his majesty — awesome in his length and his beauty.

“Come forth — O Magnificent One…” the Saint called out to the snake — and the Saint kept looking at the snake with a benign eye.

The snake was mesmerized by the aura and charismatic presence of the Saint.

Because of this — the terrible snake suddenly lost all his ferocity.

The snake glided towards the Saint and coiled up meekly at the Saint’s feet in obeisance.


The Saint said to the Snake:

“O — you beautiful creature — what is it that I hear about you being the scourge of the village…?

Leave your destructive ways.

Be good.

Do not terrorize the poor villagers needlessly.

Please stop biting them…”


The snake bowed and nodded assent.

The snake resolved to leave his evil ways and be good — and the snake promised the Saint that henceforth he would not bite anyone.

The venomous snake turned a new leaf.

The snake scrupulously kept his promise — and he stopped attacking and biting people.

The snake began to live a life of innocence — without attempting to harm anyone.

The villagers were very happy — they could move around freely without fear — the fields flourished — the cattle grazed peacefully — and the children came out to play fearlessly.


One day — several months later — the Saint passed by the village.

The Saint remembered the snake — and he searched for him everywhere.

After a long search the Saint found the Snake coiled near the root of a tree — the Snake was lying mangled and half dead.

The Snake was utterly transformed.

With all his scales had fallen off — the snake looked dilapidated, emaciated, innocuous, and badly injured — and the snake had sores all over his body.

The poor snake seemed to be on the verge of death.


On seeing the terrible condition of the Snake — the Saint asked the Snake:

“O — My Dear Friend — what happened to you…?”


In reply — the Snake said to the Saint:

“This — O Guru — is the fruit of obedience — the result of being good.

I obeyed you — I gave up my evil ways — I let the villagers alone — I stopped biting them — I stopped attacking them — and do you know what happened to me…?

Now — everyone pelts me with stones — they beat me with sticks — even the children tease and torment me and drag me mercilessly by the tail.

But I have kept my promise that I made to you…”


The Saint smiled — and he lovingly said to the Snake:

“I exhorted you not to attack them — but I did not prohibit you from hissing at them.”


The Snake looked at the Saint — feeling a bit confused.


On seeing the Snake’s confusion — the Saint said lovingly to the Snake:

“My dear friend — I told you not to BITE people.

But — did I ever tell you not to raise your hood and HISS at them…?

I told you not to Bite — but — I never told you not to Hiss…”


The snake learned a lesson for life — and henceforth he got on in life quite safely.

So — if you are one of those rare decent genteel persons — and you do not want to “BITE” people — it is fine — but — do remember to “HISS” — whenever it is required.




Are you too decent and genteel…?

A decent individual is often thought of as a weak individual.

Courteous behaviour is mistaken for weakness.

I have seen this happening throughout my life — in boarding school — in college — and — more so — in the Navy and Armed Forces — where decency is mistaken for weakness.

Genteel persons are considered to be soft — whereas “bull-shitters” rule the roost.

Do remember this story and the “moral of the story” — especially if you are a decent Gentleman (or Lady)…


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1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

3. E&OE

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Link to my source blog posts in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: and writing blog:

I often narrated this parable during my Navy Days and have earlier posted it online a number of times in my blogs including at urls: and and and and and and etc

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger