Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I guess we are a family that attracts Monkeys--maybe we remind them of us being their cousins many times removed??I don't know but there is definitely a bond there!!As a child I've always been fond of Monkeys from afar---they can be pretty intimidating at close quarters.Living so near the Hill stations of the North we were in constant touch with a particular breed called the "Grey Langurs".These have black faces and Creamy/White hair and are held in awe due to their connection to the Indian Monkey God Hanuman.They also are at the top of the Hierarchy in the Primate Species and have been around for a very long time!!
My association with them goes right back to my very early childhood--for whenever Daddy had to tell me a bedtime story it always revolved around a Langur from Shimla!!This story would always have me in splits--because it featured a Langur who was a constant visitor to one old Englishman's Cottage.This fellow would steal in through the window and ransack the old man's store of Biscuits in the Pantry.One day the old man in desperation asked his wife to bake a batch of Biscuits laced with a big dose of a Laxative added to it!!Needless to say the poor Langur never came back!!Daddy used to spin this "tail" out with a lot of action,song and dance and it always had the opposite effect on me--instead of putting me to sleep it perked me up even more--and that really irritated poor Mummy!!It used to be fun to go on treks with Daddy--he'd have a name for every monkey we came across--and if that monkey even so much as turned it's head in answer to the name Daddy would hold regular conversations with it--enticing me to do the same but my inhibitions and the fear that folks around us would think I'm crazy always held me back though most often I longed to follow suit!!
There were many encounters with Monkeys but the best ones came when we visited a place called Dalhousie first in 1994 and later again in 1997.Sayali is a huge fan of Biscuits and she has her favourite local brands wherever we go--and as most of these are not available in Mumbai she prefers to follow the Camel's example in stuffing as many as she can get into her face!!Each time she took a stroll to the Market she'd pick up large quantities and eat these at every given opportunity.In 1994 we travelled through winding Mountain roads by Car from Dharamsala to Dalhousie and carried with us a fine sized Satchel filled with Sayali's precious biscuits.By the time we reached Dalhousie we were tired---but the windows of our huge Bedroom faced a beautiful view of the Dhauladhar Mountains of the Himalayan Ranges.This sight so excited us that we flung the windows wide open and literally drank in the sweet Mountain Air--scented with the smell of Conifers and Wild Flowers mixed with the scent of Wood fires burning in the homes surrounding the Hotel.Leaving these open we ate our Tea in the room and dropped into the comfortable beds for a siesta--as we'd been travelling since 6 a.m.!!About an hour later a scuffling sound woke us--and to our amusement and Sayali's dismay the whole room was over run with a horde of Monkeys--attacking Sayali's precious hoard of Biscuits with a vengeance!!There were torn wrappers strewn all over the Carpet and the entire gang was busy stuffing as many biscuits as they could into their capacious cheeks with amazing speed and precision.It was Sayali's howls of anger and pain that alerted them to the fact that we were awake--and in a trice they bounded out of the window on to the huge Deodar Tree bang outside the window--scolding her incessantly for upsetting their hunting spree!!We quickly closed the windows as soon as the last visitor bounded out---and then Sayali rushed to inspect her hoard--sorely depleted now and most of her most favourite Biscuits gone--evident from the mess of torn wrappers strewn on the floor!!In fact the monkeys added insult to injury when they proceeded to continue scolding Sayali from the upper branches of the lofty Tree while emptying their stash from their cheeks into the holes in the trunk!!Sudhir and I were convulsed with laughter--mainly at seeing a 20 year old girl bawl like a baby at the loss of her precious Biscuits!!
The second incident took place in 1997.This time we had both Lotta and Meha as well as Narayanda and Pushpaben with us.The latter two are very dear family friends--actually more family than friends.This time we were careful to keep the windows closed.Now there are these particular brand of Ice Candies that Sayali was addicted to on the earlier Trip--and looked forward with great enthusiasm to on this one.She'd eat these very often daily--buying two or more at a time and eating these while strolling down the Hilly paths and lanes.The idyllic Week flew past and just the day before we were to leave she accompanied Sudhir to the Taxi Stand to collect the details of our Taxi the next day.On the way back she bought herself two of those Ice Candies--the last ones available it turned out.Unwrapping one she began eating it while clutching the other one tightly in her other hand.She was just exclaiming to Sudhir about how lucky she was that she managed to buy the last two Candies in the Store when a wiry Langur swooped down---pulled both Candies from her grasp--and bounded away to eat these in the upper branches of an Evergreen!!It took Sayali and the spectators a minute to realise what had just happened--the spectators spontaneously exploding into peals of laughter and Sayali bawling all the way to the Hotel--crestfallen and cheated!!