It is quite unusual for hordes of monkeys to swing from the banisters and pooh in the balconies of fairly upmarket apartment complexes in India, no matter what the Western perception is.
For my many international readers (hi there Rimky and Diya), let me explain the animal situation in our metropolises. Cows, buffaloes, and dogs do rub shoulders with us humans in the streets, it's true. However, throwing back the curtains in the morning to catch a monkey in mid-armpit-scratch, I confess, does give me a bit of a jolt. As it does to the monkey I’m sure. Though it looks fairly embarrassed when you first catch it unawares, it’ll eventually turn away with a look that says, “It was itching OK, I don’t see what the hysterics are for…” And bound off to join its family cheerfully poohing in your neighbour’s balcony.
The same family of monkeys has been returning to our apartment complex for the last two months. I know it’s the same family because I can recognize some of them: a muscular Papa monkey who seems quite fond of his offspring but gets cranky if his naps are disturbed, a Mama monkey with a baby that simpers to itself; and two teenagers who are very attached to each other.
You can spend a good part of an hour just watching them play. Of these two, I have a bit of a soft spot for the one who has had its hand cut off at the wrist, perhaps the result of a barbed wire accident (either that or it failed to return money it owed to the monkey mafia). But it has adapted admirably, and waddles along banisters upright, on two legs. Only when it leaps from one banister to another does it slip and fall sometimes, but quickly rights itself with the help of its good hand.
So hasn’t the building management tried to do anything about it? Of course they have. The poor fellows have tried most things: they’ve sent ruffianly men swarming all over the place with sticks and firecrackers, scaring the human inhabitants witless, but making no impression at all on the simian offenders. Many a time I’ve seen them serenely pick lice off each other (the monkeys not the men) like it was a peaceful Sunday afternoon, while firecrackers exploded above their heads and bloodcurdling screams rent the air.
Now cages have been installed with cut up fruit placed aesthetically all about it and within. Of course, our visitors have no interest in it. I think apart from the food angle they come here for the excitement of it all. Or revenge. That day, we were attacked by three of them. (Ok, Ok it was the maimed one, and the mother holding her baby - but let's not split hairs. And they weren’t so much attacking us as showing interest in us.) While my husband and I screamed like little girls and turned tail and ran, the thought struck me that they seemed to be enjoying themselves enormously.
I would love to end on a politically correct note and say something like “We pay for encroaching on land that was rightfully theirs. Let us co-exist together man and monkey, and forge a new order based on cross-species co-operation.” But, there’s something about the sight of monkeys - as they tear your garbage bag to shreds, help themselves to its contents, and then scatter the uninteresting bits all over the corridor - that brings out the worst in me.
I say stick ‘em all with tranquillizer guns, take them to the deepest part of the forest, and leave them there.
I’m sure they can get as much fun out of annoying the tigers, snakes, and whats-its (Grrroar!! Ok, joke’s over, who pooped in my food? I stayed up all night to catch it! ) as we human beings have given them.