I was reading the paper at Café Mocha on Lavelle Road on a Sunday morning recently when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see a monkey! He had climbed down from the trees and was stealthily making his way to the table next to mine. Cool as a cucumber, he quickly and determinedly helped himself to the sugar packets in a bowl on the table – taking only the brown-coloured ones and not the white ones! Before I could blink an eye, he had already climbed back up the tree! Moments later, empty sugar packets fell to the ground one by one. He was obviously savouring his loot!
I’ve seen monkeys mostly in rural settings and at temples, but they are also very much part of the urban landscape of many Indian cities. I remember seeing a pack of monkeys crossing the road in New Delhi, with the babies riding piggyback on their mothers’ backs! I have never seen monkeys in my neighbourhood in Bangalore, but I have heard many stories from people who have walked into their kitchen to see a monkey opening their fridge to see what’s inside, or lounging on their sofa helping themselves to any drinks or snacks lying around!
These creatures are fascinating because of their human-like qualities and sharp intelligence. But they can also be aggressive and intimidating. Apparently in New Delhi, monkeys have become a real menace. The authorities have tried using monkey catchers to capture the monkeys and then release them in forests, but they’re not so easy to catch. A monkey even managed to board the metro one day, terrorising passengers before he got off three stops later! The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation took on a new employee since this incident: a langur monkey and his handler are called in to scare away the smaller, pesky macaques whenever they get out of hand!