A couple of weeks ago, I was sipping my early evening tea sitting in my guest house apartment in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The evening sun promised to turn the sky into that peculiar shade between yellow and orange that reminds us of the first whisky of the evening, when I glanced outside. William Cowper’s lines flashed through my mind:
“I am monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.”
The alpha male of the local tribe of hanumans was keeping an eye on his charges and was ready to jump to defend them from the tribe of humans who would dare to threaten their peaceful existence.
A few days ago, in Shimla this time, I stayed in a charming little heritage hotel on the Mall. This hotel had only two drawbacks – a troop of rhesus macaques ran about and played on its wooden roof throughout the time when good men and women had their afternoon nap; another branch of the same family parked themselves near the neighbourhood fruit-sellers and terrorised the innocent humans into disgorging their purchases of apricots, mangoes, and cherries.
However, not all the members of the macaque tribe were so raucous and felonious in nature. I found a macaque wife looking after her husband with such care and attention that I had to point it out to my wife as something she could perhaps emulate. My wife was NOT amused.
We took a trip to the Jakhoo Temple to Hanuman near Shimla. All tourists were told to leave behind with security guards their bags, specs and other things which could not be kept securely in their pockets. Apparently, the local monkeys believed it to be their bounden duty to extract tribute from us humans in the form of eatables.
We did find a few examples of bribery and extortion – a monkey had run off with one of a pair of sneakers; the owner had to buy a bagful of peanuts and leave it for the monkey before he got his shoe back.
The monkeys had solved the problem of thirst quite easily – this time, through emulating their human cousins, some of whom were interested spectators.