At the age of 74, you’d think no right-thinking man would entertain the idea of engaging in a wrestling match of any sort. Well, when it comes to rescuing his puppy, Richard Wilbanks seems prepared to wrestle even an alligator. And that’s exactly what he did on November 25! Now, I’ve never physically seen alligators – they are only found in the waters of USA and E. China – but I’ve read enough about them to know they look like crocodiles, if only smaller, but are equally dangerous to humans. Here in Africa, if you’ve seen a crocodile, the alligator is its smaller version. And if you know a crocodile, you’ve seen its open lizard snout with its line of chisel teeth that can scare the bejesus out of the strongest of men. So, what kind of man with their nuts intact would dare approach either of the two? Well, looks like there are hotheads ready to dare the devil, out there. Wilbanks was walking his puppy near a swampy pond when an alligator sent out its long snout and grabbed it in its ‘chisel’ jaws. Without a thought, he jumped into the water and seized the alligator’s jaws with his hands, holding the body firmly between his knees. He wrenched the jaws apart and saved his puppy. And while at it, he was so cool the cigar on his lips was never once ‘disturbed’. His feat, albeit leaving him with bruised fingers, made the headlines in USA, such is the fascination of Americans with anything alligator or crocodile. If only these Americans knew! In some parts of Africa, that incident would be one of the ordinary daily occurrences that’d never make it in the most boisterous of village-pub chatters! I remember recounting here on another page before how we used to ride on backs of crocodiles that were usually taking in the sun on dry land, from River Akagera. We mistakenly took them for dry logs until, to our horror, we saw them raise their heads, whereupon we took to our heels. Yet, from that time we were hooked and frequented their hangout spots to just savour the thrill. So, the fascination is not solely American. Ours, however, is also an underdog story. The story of stories is with the Nubians of South Egypt and their crocodiles. To the Nubians, crocs are not scary creatures that simply fascinate them. In their culture and beliefs, crocs are physical totems of blessings. For instance, in our now fast-fading memory we all remember how in the backward days of peasantry life in Rwanda before 1994 people used to keep some of their livestock in their houses at night. To avoid the threat of theft, chickens, goats and pigs were kept in houses. This was so because these animals represented monetary income. Not so with Nubians, I am made to understand. Among the Nubians, yes, it’s all too common to find young crocodiles living with their owner-families in the same houses. However, it’s not exactly so much for monetary-income generation as for their offers of benediction. The case of fiscal income-generation came as an afterthought – one of the blessings, maybe? So, today in addition to being physical totems of blessings, crocs have proved to be tourist attractions and Nubian villagers are beginning to keep them in all sizes, for pecuniary value. The small ones in open places where they can be touched or played with; the big ones in cement cages where they can freely be viewed. As example, one Mahmoud Ahmed owns a Nubian house that has become a source of his sizeable income. One section of the house for crocodile display; another for Nubian handmade souvenirs; another for serving hot tea. What more blessings can one wish for? Not that Nubians do not indulge in wrestling matches with their blessings! Sure, they do. Especially those who only keep young crocodiles. It’s hard enough catching young ones from the water, I am told, but taking them back to water in their maturity is a monumental hurdle. It’s a task that requires the strongest men of the village. It involves reining it in, tying its chisel-teeth-lined snout, both of which are the easer part. The harder part is that the hard-muscled lizard tail of a crocodile can toss eight of the strongest men of the village about like straws! But interestingly, I’m reliably informed that there are two men – yes, two! – who roll a croc into a bundle as easily as you would, a mat! So, Mr. Wilbanks, want to try out these two men’s wrestling prowess? The whole of the American media would keep your name in their headlines for years! On a serious note, however, Rwandans who are partial to the idea of crocodile farming, Nubian land is where to draw lessons from. But for your life’s sake, strictly as tourist attractions!