The short story “The Mark of Vishnu” by Khushwant Singh begins with Gunga Ram, a servant, leaving a saucer of milk for a cobra he calls the Kala Nag outside a hole in the wall. He tells the schoolboys the milk is gone by morning, and this offering protects the household from the snake. Gunga Ram believes that all life is sacred and wears a V-mark on his forehead, which represents the mark of Vishnu. The schoolboys make fun of him for being ignorant and superstitious and tell him they will kill the cobra when they see it. 

One day the schoolboys have a chance to corner the snake without Gunga Ram around. They beat it with sticks and break its back but leave its head undamaged. They want to take the snake to school, so they put it in a large t...

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