Mangammal, a resident of Vadakkapattu, reportedly cooked in the dark on the evening of Dec 4 while the entire village was experiencing a power cut.
The next morning, the 47-year-old housewife was cleaning the vessel in which sambar had been prepared for her family when she saw the skeleton of a small reptile amidst the leftover curry.
Mangammal showed her neighbours the snake's skeleton. One of them identified it as the remains of a small cobra. Subsequently Mangammal complained of nausea and even swooned.
She was rushed to a clinic in the same village. Since her symptoms resembled that of cases wherein venom entered the patient's body following snake bite, Mangammal was referred to the government hospital at Tiruttani in Thiruvallur district.
Tests done at the GH confirmed that Mangammal had not ingested any venom. However, she again felt dizzy and vomitted on Dec 6. Mangammal also told her husband that she can see snakes all around her.
The paranoid woman's kin brought her to the Poison wing of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here yesterday for further check-up. This time, the diagnosis was food poisoning.
Though she has been given the best treatment, Mangammal is still fearful. According to doctors, she seems to have suffered a psychotic breakdown.
"The fact that she cannot hear could have greatly increased the fear. We even asked the relatives to see if they could find the skeleton she fished out of the sambar, but they said that it was destroyed," said Dr Anand Pratap, Resident Medical Officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
He suspects that instead of a small cobra, a lizard fell into the sambar or probably a cat dropped fish bones into the vessel while it was kept open immediately after cooking.
The RMO said that if Mangammal's condition does not improve, they might have to subject her to a psychiatric evaluation.