The Life in the Hills
It seemed like during my absence from home, my balcony was invaded by some robbers. Perhaps they wanted to loot something but since the door to the room was close, they couldn’t enter the room or the kitchen and find something to eat. Due to rain nothing much had been left out, so they pulled the laundry lines, turned down the plastic chairs, threw the broom to the corner, threw the shoes on ground from the shoe rack and my towel and my underwear, drying on the laundry line, were found thrown out of the balcony, hoisting in breeze on the shrubs.
Monkeys. They always do that. When the cat is away the mice will play but here when I am away the monkeys will play.
If they are around, nothing can be found at its respective place and nothing can remain at its place for long. I have a stick kept in the balcony to shoo them away but these notorious creatures are always looking for a chance. It is impossible for me to leave the door, to the balcony, open. If I have to go to my next room to pick up my glasses, then first I must shut the door of my balcony.
They break dreams too
Yesterday in the afternoon I stretched myself, in sun, on the bed lying next to the door, to enjoy a light nap. A beautiful flower blooming on the hillside appeared in my dream and I tried to smell it. In my dream I tried to hold the stem of the plant to pull it towards me. The pricks on the stem wounded by fingers and it began to bleed. Suddenly the peace was disturbed by smashing of a glass. I woke from my dream and saw a monkey making his way out of the door. He, when found me sleeping, had entered the room and tried to pick up some fruits from the tray placed on the table. As he hopped onto the table, his hand hit the tumbler placed next causing it fall on the ground and smash.
My balcony is some of the perfect places for them. They start arriving early dawn, with the break of the day. Mothers come with their babies hanging to their bellies. The big boys lead the troupe and guard it too. The whole troupe sits around here and there and looks for a chance to find something to eat. It takes them long-time to find some door or a window left open. If they find one, they do not mind entering it and pick up some fruits, vegetables, on the table or from inside the refrigerator. Then, quietly, they occupy a corner in the balcony and munch the food. Then from here they can slide to the bridal path, below my house, climb up to the verandah of the apartment above mine, or just jump over the gap between the two buildings, mine and the next one and run across the tin roof.
The Oldest Inhabitants of Shimla
They are the oldest inhabitants of Shimla. It is believed that they had arrived with Lord Hanuman, the monkey God and a famous and important character of Hindu epic Ramayana. Lord Hanuman had come here looking for a medicinal herb sanjeevani , and left these monkeys here on top of the Jakhu hill. Today the summit of the hill is crowned by a temple and these monkeys can be seen roaming around the temple and the hill. Every second person in Shimla has to live with monkeys. People begin to close their doors when they arrive in groups. The day they do not appear, people start looking for them. No one likes them but everyone enjoys their activities. If they knew how to fly and how to make fire, the world would have been at their mercy.
Forget about any political party, these creatures rule the town. When their group fights go on in the bazaars, the screeching sound of monkeys is scary for everyone and their aggressiveness forces everyone to rush inside. Everyone moves inside and watch them from behind the closed windows. No one can dare to face them.
Their unique way to find survival.
Finding survival is not a problem for them. Steal or snatch, these two rules work very well. Strong limbs, climbing techniques, jumping practices and running skills make them amazing performers. They are courageous enough to approach you and snatch the things from your hands. Here comes the tourist season and they get ready to scare the new arrivals. Some of them place themselves near the restaurants, eating joints, softy ice-cream parlours, juice bars or fast food corners. During the summer, softy ice-cream is the best nosh to chill themselves, so you may not be allowed to have more than a bite or two at max. Suddenly one of them approaches you and takes it from you. You can scream or just shout but who cares? You have to give up or throw it away.
One of them who sits opposite Telegraph Office at The Mall Road keeps an eye on the customers of City Point Fast Food Centre. As soon as someone comes out of the fast food centre, with something eatable in his hand, this monkey approaches him/her quietly and snatches it. Another, on the top of the Jakhu hill is more intelligent. He has developed various techniques to earn his daily food. Jakhu hill in Shimla is crowned by a temple of monkey God – Hanuman. The temple is frequently visited by a large number of locals and tourists as well. Be careful as there are chances for you to lose you goggles or your spectacles. You would never realize when someone hops on to your shoulder from behind and takes away your pair of glasses. Now you are required to throw a packet of nuts, being sold by the local vendors, near the temple. As soon as the packet is thrown to the monkey he would return you stuff. Similar cases are there near the shoe-rack, outside the temple, where someone is keeping an eye on your activities. As he gets the chance one of your shoe is taken away and is returned in exchange of a food packet.
A Historic Stampede
One morning whole Shimla was stunned to hear the news of an amazing act of monkey menace. The narrow and crowded street of Lower Bazaar suffered a stampede due to the currency notes of rupees one thousand and rupees five hundred falling out of blue. They were coming with breeze and brought a delightful shopping day for everyone present there. Later we learnt that some window had remained open and on the table, inside the house, a bundle of currency notes had been left by the house lady. One of those wanderers, had a lovely chance to enter the window, look at the packet and pick it away. He could not find it of any use of him so he pulled out the notes one by one and then……… rest of the story has already been told above.
Another incident that I remember is of my personal interaction with a lovely looking monkey who used to come to my balcony, every morning. One morning when the dawn had just begun to spread on the hills and the mist had begun to disappear, I opened my window to look at the hillside and suddenly the monkey jumped into my balcony. I showed him a biscuit that I was having with my morning tea. He put his hand through the iron bars, fitted in the window, to get the biscuit and without losing any chance I seized his hand. He screamed, sharply, and I let him go. He moved away quickly, climbed up on the wall of the balcony and stared at me. I mocked him and then I closed the window. Same was repeated next morning. This time again he climbed up to the wall and stared at me. Third morning when he came, I showed him the biscuit. He kept staring at me from the wall of the balcony but did not come close to me.
I like watching them from the distance. Without looking at them I can even walk through a group of monkeys when they sit on the road below my house and block the way for the commuters. Behind me, I feel like they are talking to each other about me. A baby monkey, perhaps making complaint to his mother and telling her about me throwing stones on him. His mother tries to make him understand and take it easy. The evening comes and I return home, go to my balcony to have the view of another Himalayan dusk. Another day of life gets over as the sun hides behind the hills. The monkeys have set up on the trees. Now there is no movement. I close the door of my balcony and enter the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea for me.