Thursday, January 16, 2014

Monkey Memories


Our locality of Chamarajapuram was regularly visited by a school of monkeys. Just pass a thought why they were not seen for the last two days, ..... blink ten times and you heard them jumping on the branches - if it was a daytime thought!  If it was after dusk, expect them the next day!

Our premises on Devaparthiva Road had trees and yard space around the house, a perfect setting for them to stop by in their perpetual quest for food and mischief.  They got coconut water, jackfruit, rose apples, mangoes, guavas, pomegranates, custard apples and sometimes food items kept for sun drying outside.  They jumped from house to tree and from branch to branch, ran all over, preventing any kitchen plant we attempted to grow. Their rampage was a headache and a perpetual nuisance to the extent of forcing a prayer to Lord Hanuman whose avatar they are to stop the menace.
All said and done, monkeys have always fascinated me no end.

Picture above taken in 2012 when the house was being demolished by the new owner after it was vacated by our family in 2008.  See the surrounding greenery.  Jackfruit tree is obscured on the left by the roadside tree.  Mango tree is seen at the back. 

Sometimes their arrival was silent but usually we would hear the rustle of the branch when they jumped. That signaled my entry into the scene to drive them away.  My catapult was kept ever ready and handy lest they damaged anything in the garden. I also kept some small stones and rose apple seeds for shooting with the catapult, which was the only weapon they were afraid of the most. Throwing stones or using a toy gun were ineffective. They would easily evade stones hand-hurled at them with amazing reflexes. Read this short post on slingshot
 I made.  They feared this weapon to such an extent that even pretending to shoot was enough to rattle them, but I also shot at times. They knew their reflexes are too slow when an object is fired from a catapult, what with my stance and body language during the chase. I aimed at areas around the monkeys and never directly at them lest I hurt or injured any.  They only needed to be scared out of the premise.

I claim myself to be their only nemesis in the chase act and some of them recognized me even when they were in other streets when I did that catapult action!!  And I could identify at least 4 of them, 2 veterans. Sometimes, firing small crackers which we saved after Deepavali [Diwali - festival of lights] also scared them. When some neighbour burst a cracker at an odd time of the day, we knew they were around!

Especially in summer months, sun drying of certain food stuff was a common thing.  Someone had to keep watch often to prevent monkeys [or crows or squirrels] looting it.  When some veteran attempted to loot and we tried to chase away, it used to 'grrrr' back with their menacing stance in retaliation and succeeded in picking a handful before scampering away.

A portion of the big jackfruit tree and rose apple tree. 

They were more stubborn when a jackfruit was ripe.  They are so fond of it. No amount of threatening would make them leave the place, esp. if the fruit was higher up on the branch and the leader monkey would be having its lion's share without allowing others to come near it till it had its fill both in the stomach and cheek pouches. If their arrival was silent and we were completely unaware of it, we would hear the sound of the big seeds of the jackfruit being dropped by them on the dry leaves beneath. It was an emergency to save the fruit for us.  I would run out with my catapult to chase them away.  They knew which fruit was ripe and we could smell it only when the monkeys scratched it open!  

Front yard. Left was gate, right was main entrance door.

If I was successful in chasing a few monkeys out of the premises I knew others would follow suit. They always moved together.  Sometimes for kicks, I would 'trap' one or two who were slow, and block their jumping route from house to branch to follow the route others went.  I chased them around the house as it ran on cornices or rooftop to the other side of the big house. If it failed to escape and got desperate, there was its SOS call, in a very unusual sound.  It was then the other veterans came back to rescue - they knew something was wrong!! It was fun running around and fooling the poor monkey.  Not sadistic pleasure though, just young age fun.

 We had six tall coconut trees. They love to stay overnight on coconut trees as they are safe.  But our trees were very old, tall and swayed too much which was probably unsafe factors for their overnight halts here.  They preferred shorter trees in nearby streets where they are a real nuisance, even now.  They have made certain trees as their permanent residential address!

To deter monkeys from climbing the tall coconut trees, tying a bunch of thorny plants about 20 feet up and around the trunk helped until the thorns wore off.  But it was a tough job bringing and tying on the trunk which the coconut pluckers used to do on extra payment.  We tried it to good effect and it lasted one year.  Some people nailed a 3-ft long[high] zinc sheet around the trunk to make it slippery for the monkeys, but long enough for the tree-climber to climb over easily.

One evening, a veteran monkey had climbed the tallest tree having its fronds and fruits right above Iyengar's house which had tiled roof, across the back gully.  Normally they dropped the nuts after drinking the water from the nut after neatly drilling it.  But one evening, that fellow left the empty nut precariously in the groove of a horizontal frond and climbed down!!  I was watching it.  It created tension because if the nut rolled out of the groove and fell, it would surely be on the tiled roof and there was the risk of someone being really hurt.  We prayed for our coconut plucker Murali or someone to arrive, but none came. One day, two days. The nut fortunately stayed put.  We could not get sleep properly due to the perched nut!  Finally on the third day, Murali came, like godsend, climbed and dropped it to safety.  I cannot count the number of times we looked up in the 2 days to confirm it was still there!! 

When there was nothing to protect in the yard, jackfruit, mangoes or anything, I did not chase out the monkeys, but chose to entertain myself by watching them play esp. on the Rose Apple tree which was next to the kitchen window.   The younger lot played just like little kids - teasing one another, running, chasing and jumping.  It was a joy to watch them play.   Sometimes, it would climb the window sill of our kitchen and sit. I used to feed groundnut or something through the mesh and watch closely how its fingers were.  Watching closely was fun esp. when a mirror was kept on the inside of the window.  The little fellows sitting there would look at themselves with awe and surprise, make sounds and enjoy their reflections!

When the door was left ajar, stealthily some monkey would enter the house in search of food.  When someone noticed the monkey inside, there would be a loud scream!! The monkey would panic and run helter skelter which made us panic!! Finally it would find its way out.  Our tenant's house upstairs had tiled roof.  Some monkeys knew how to enter a house, removing a roof tile.  The occupants were surprised by the extra skylight and panicked!! The monkey would keep the tile aside and go away.  Climbing there for us was not possible but needed a paid help to replace the tile!

It was a pathetic sight when a young one died clinging to its mother. The mother was dragging the decomposed corpse for two days in mourning, with unusual shreiks every now and then.  It was so upset.  It had happened more than once.

The tap in the wash area under the mango tree.

There was a water tap in the backyard.  24x7 water supply had become 8x7.  The monkeys knew its water source and they knew how to open a tap.   They would open the tap and go away.  So in the wee hours of the night when water was let to the locality, water would keep gushing all night.  If someone heard the water noise, the tap would be closed.  We hear present day monkeys are more concerned about conserving water than its two legged version.  They have learnt how to close back the taps after using it while humans fail to be careful in this regard! See video here: [Click]

They can be human and we can be monkey!!  The latter is not funny to others.  Humans can be inhuman, but monkeys cannot be 'inmonkey', do you agree?

There was one Narasimha - a few years senior to me, a street mate.  He had started calling me as 'Kothi' [ಕೋತಿ] means 'Monkey'.  I was in 7th class. Read this short blogpost what happened later [Click here].  Now I can call myself as monkey but not when I was 12-13 years old!


The earliest memory of a monkey is when I was about 4.  It was in front of the Sanctum sanctorum of Tirupati in 1961 or 62.  The scene was different then.  No queues or rush.  I can recall vividly that I was standing alone [my relatives were close by] with small biscuits in hand.  There was a pandal above.  I could clearly see the face of Lord Srinivasa's statue between the heads of a small number of worshiping people at the door of the Sanctum sanctorum. There were monkeys, some were perching on the poles that held the pandal, a few were on the ground looking for food and there were a handful of people here and there.  That is the scene.  All of a sudden one monkey rushed towards me and jumped up to my chest....... Eeeeeeeeeeee.  It snatched the biscuit from my hand and ran away, scaring the living daylights out of me.  That is why this memory is permanently imprinted!! 

We have seen monkeys being pet-slaved to do tricks and earn money, but it is rare to hear somebody keeping one as pet at home.  I used to wonder with gaping mouth when my father used to mention that his friend, one N.S.Krishna in whose house there was a pet monkey that lived for many years till the 1950s. 

I left the Chamarajapuram house in 1998 and moved to Lakshmipuram.  Here also monkeys were not much of a menace to begin with.  I was worried if I could make a garden now. But probably with growing traffic and our location, they stopped coming after a few years.  My garden arrived.

See the neighbour's greenery on the left and our tiled house.

The last I noticed monkeys crossing our house was in 2009.  See picture.  They continue to live in Chamarajapuram and also in our vast locality, but somewhere else they feel safe from traffic etc. much to my relief. 

Monkeys always fascinated me.  See this short post on the toy monkey I made: [Click]. When I visited the zoo, I would stand watching the Chimpanzee and Gorilla or in the row of monkey cages side by side having different varieties. Time would stand still.  When the camera came, I find an unavoidable urge to shoot them.
Here are some I have shot on my several tours. 

This is at Paschimavahini where River Cauvery flows.  15 kms from Mysore. 

There are many near our Chamundi Hill.  This is scratching its head with its leg!

Rishikesh, on Ram Jhoola. 2008.

A senior citizen there, I mean the one in fur coat.

One more on Ram Jhoola.

Ok, never mind, it is just two-legged.

Grooming monkeys at Sahastradhara, Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, 2013

A seasoned veteran, near Gangtok, by River Teesta, 2010.

A youngster on pine tree branch at Pahalgam, Kashmir 2011.  

My favourite.  A youngster I found on Suttur Road, Mysore.  Familiar?  
Then you have either seen me or my avatar on facebook. 
Fear, surprise, curiosity, innocence. 

My present desktop background, a collage of 4 lovely expressions, gathered from the web.

 Monkey God.  Anjaneya/Hanuman.
[At Ramadri, beside the Bay of Bengal, Visakhapatnam, pictured during my visit in 2008]

Jai Hanuman! 

Keyboard monkey


Susan Hirneise Moore said...

So I'm sitting here wondering whether we have anything in our environs that would be an unusual sight for you, Dinu, because surely a monkey around here would be a very odd thing! We see deer here. Does that count? And groundhogs, too. One day Bill and I saw a wolf, too. Oh, and we have raccoons too.

Austinbhats said...

Good read .
Monkeys are also very useful.