100 Days in India Project

Do not touch the monkeys. Four monkeys resting next to an ochre wall in Jaipur, India.

14/ 100 Do not Touch the Monkeys

I really liked this scene next to a temple in Jaipur. It reminded me of one of those dramatic Italian renaissance paintings where something terrible has just happened and angels have come down from heaven to tend to the sick and wounded. Perhaps there had been a fight to the death over a poppadum. Or maybe the reclining monkey had given all of its spiritual Hanuman energy to a believer? In reality it was nothing like that. One monkey was having a nap and the others were picking through its fur, hunting for edible things that shouldn’t be there. Shortly afterwards, they switched so that one monkey didn’t get all the good stuff.

I love animals, I really do. My career of choice was always going to be something veterinary (my inability to grasp the mechanisms of academia put pay to that idea). In spite of my love for living things I was quite wary of getting too close to the monkeys. We had seen plenty of people feeding them, which is fine until a jealous monkey comes along and, before you know it, you end up with a fight on the top of your head. I am 100% certain that I don’t think India is the country I want to be in when I get bitten or scratched by any animal, least of all a monkey. I wasn’t going to get anywhere near them. Only a moron would encourage that.

In an effort to avoid the zoonoses I encouraged Fiona past all the people selling peanuts and bananas that day and stated (very matter of factly, she would say) that I wouldn’t be one of ‘those’ tourists, and continued up to the temple to view the Rhesus macaques from a distance. We walked up the beautifully ornate pathway, stubbornly passing dozens of tiny outstretched hands that belonged to mildly annoyed monkeys. Then, of course, much to Fiona’s amusement and without the slightest bit of encouragement, a very young and springy little guy leapt about 4 metres from a wall and decided to make the back of my neck its perch for several minutes.

Since I had no peanuts it had a good dig around in my hair for some lice, had a go at getting into my rucksack and then just used me as a convenient nest. I think that my orange rucksack, being the colour associated with the monkey god Hanuman, made him or her feel right at home. Trying to remove the lovely little creature only resulted in it moving down to get a more comfy position on my arm where, later that day, I found it had left me a spot of monkey poo.