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Running From Monkeys


NOTE: This is a repost from my old blog Draught of Amritaoriginally published on May 30, 2008. It’s relevant mainly because of the word “running” in the title. The rest is just fierce monkey business.

One day in Haridwar, when a few out of the group went shopping (I stayed at the house, drawing yantras), they came upon a mama monkey with a baby, and one of them said, “Oh…look, it’s so cute!” and pointed her camera at the baby. Well, the camera must have looked like a big eye staring straight at the baby, and the mama went bananas – she bared her teeth and screamed and then charged. Everyone escaped untouched, but came back with quite a story of monkey-dodging!

Lesson learned from their experience: Monkeys aren’t just cute, silly little creatures. They can get nasty if even slightly provoked.

Nearly a week later, we were in Vrindavan, spending a couple nights at a hotel owned by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Nice place. Good rooms. Beautiful grounds inside the complex.

Asana in Vrindavan

Asana practice in Vrindavan moments before the monkey assault

On the first morning, we gathered for our daily asana practice, but none of our guest rooms were large enough to accommodate us all, so it was decided we would practice on the large grassy courtyard between the buildings. It was early, but the sun was already above the rooftops, and the air was still slightly cool – a wonderful setting in which to practice.

Led by Sarah, the ten of us enjoyed twenty minutes of asana before the monkeys came.

It began with two curious monkeys investigating a bag one of us had left in the grass off to the side while we did yoga. I remember being in a wide-leg forward bend and looking behind me through my legs watching the monkeys dig into the bag and begin pulling things out. One them began playing with a pair of sandals nearby, and soon everyone’s attention was drawn away from their yoga practice and towards the monkeys.

Next I knew, monkeys were screaming and humans were running! And not just the two monkeys now, but at least ten more joined the chase towards our building, though I hung back and decided not to go that way since everyone else, with monkeys chasing, were in front of me. The fear of rabies told me to head in the other direction, away from the aggressive animals. I took a wide route around the courtyard, skirting the sides of the buildings, watching the trees above me for monkeys, and somehow I came to a dead end where a monkey was sunning himself on top of a wall. I avoided looking directly at him, which could be interpreted as a sign of aggression, and slowly turned around to find another way back to our rooms.

When I made it back, I found out that two of the women had been bitten and scratched – Stephanie had tooth and claw marks on her back from one monkey, and Lori had been bitten in two places (she had three monkeys hanging on her back at one point as she was trying to run away). Neither of them had received rabies vaccinations before the trip, so a local doctor was called to the hotel to administer shots. When he arrived, he dusted off his little black back (Vrindavan is an extremely dusty place), and it was a relief to see that he had fresh, sterile needles and syringes sealed in plastic with which to give the shots.

Following the monkey attack, men with sticks were about on the grounds scaring the monkeys away, as we were all still nervous to be outside – one monkey swooped down and stole a banana out of Sarah’s hand as she walked between rooms in the open hallway!)

The hotel officials were apologetic and said that is the first time such a thing had happened there.

A European woman who had been staying there for some time told us later that day about a similar incident that occurred only the week before at the hotel.

Apparently, it is a problem in many parts of India, especially the more densely populated cities and towns. Problematic monkeys in Delhi are often captured and relocated to “monkey jail” far outside the city (a walled monkey reserve), one man told us. And since the Indian people have a high regard for life, as well as a reverence for the monkey god, Hanuman, euthanization is absolutely out of the question.

When monkeys and humans compete for space, of course the humans will win, but the monkeys obviously won’t go without a fight.

Just don’t look the monkey in the eye. And a little praise to Hanuman can’t hurt, either.

Jai Jai Jai Hanumaana Gosaaee

Kripaa karahu gurudeva kee naaee

POSTSCRIPT: If I need to pick up the pace while out jogging I visualize this day and screaming monkeys chasing after me, wanting to sink their teeth into my flesh. Monkeys are scarier than dogs, because you can see the anger in their eyes, the malice, the intent to do you harm, to kill you. Dogs just react without thinking. Monkeys have purpose.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2010/05/20 10:13 am

    The juxtaposition of this story with the photograph, particularly the last paragraph, will be with me all day! Thank you for reminding me…well, lots of things. ha.

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