Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monkey Business

As an animal lover, I never tire of the wildlife and domesticated animals running around the streets and jungles of India. I still get excited whenever I see a monkey. I love watching them go about their daily business in the city or the forest. They are very busy.
They groom themselves, take care of their young, beg or steal food on the street, and pester residents and tourists alike. There is even a monkey patrol in New Delhi to keep them in line. http://en.rian.ru/world/20071024/85320947.html

There are two very common types of monkeys in Rajasthan: the red-faced, red-rumped Rhesus Macaque and the black-faced Hanuman Langur. Drivers and guides have often told me: "Red-faced mean monkey. Black-faced nice monkey." Red-faced monkeys tend to be more aggressive and I've seen more of them in the cities. Black-faced monkeys have very long, graceful limbs and tails. I've heard their warning call in a forest when a tiger approaches. They look like hairy little men when then sit on walls with their legs dangling over.

In Jaipur I've seen disagreements among disparate species. While walking down the alleys of Johari Bazaar, I saw a monkey get in a spat with a dog, though I'm not sure over what. There was snarling on the dog's part and paw swatting on the monkey's part.

Smart and conniving monkeys hang out at temples where there's sure to be food. Devotees offer sweets to the Gods which are in turned blessed. Pilgrims leave with the blessed sweets. Monkeys don't miss a trick and watch your hands as you leave temples.

In Deeg, my friend Regina was robbed of her plate of offerings as she left the Durga Goddess temple. Amid shouts from locals, a red-faced monkey ran up, slapped her plate from beneath and made off with her coconut. He smugly sat on the fence munching it right in front of us. In Sawai Madhophur, a black-faced monkey wrestled me for the rose garland around my neck. It was given to me by a priest at a local temple. I would have easily handed it over but the garland string got caught in my hat and earring, resulting in a tug of war. The monkey won, greedily stuffing roses in his mouth as I watched, massaging my ear.

So far my favorite bit of monkey business was watching a monkey milk a cow. On the way to Pushkar, a troop of monkeys on the roadside were busy with a group of cows. One was presumably picking fleas off a docile caramel-colored cow's flank. Another was fastidiously combing through the cow's tail hairs. But one industrious fellow was actually milking the cow. Really. Well, more than likely, he was picking fleas off the udders, but it sure looked like he was milking it. Even the stoic driver on the trip had a big smile on his usually staid face.

I really hope they never round up all the monkeys that carry on their business in busy cities. It would be far less entertaining.

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