I suppose I could gussy it up and call it a disagreement. A differing set of values between species. Or perhaps I could say it’s a police action…the biggest euphemism for military conflict in history. The Monkeys would tell you it’s an invasion. I am a Wandering Hippy occupying their sovereign state and they are but simple freedom fighters defending their homeland. The truth is: you can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it a lady….you can kiss it sure, but it ain’t no lady. This is Asymmetric Warfare, plain and simple and I should be kicking Simian ass from here to the Taj Mahal…yet the facts are clear. I’m going to lose this war.
Monkeys 5 – Hippy 3
It is with a heavy heart I recall an earlier time. A time of peace. I long for that age, back when I had first arrived in country, I was still naive and un-jaded towards the Rhesus Macaques population. Still as gleeful as a child thinking “monkeys are funny and adorable”. Oh, the painful horror of veracity…how easily my wide eyed notions were stolen from me by greasy little paws. There was a particular moment during this time of simplicity…it was innocent and pure, I saw a monkey dash playfully across the parking lot a mere three feet from where I stood. and I thought to myself “that was a weird-looking cat” …the horror. I think back to the times when discovering muddy paw prints on the windshield of our car in the morning was “cute and exciting”…oh, the horror.
The war began abruptly, violently, and as most, it began over a transparent misunderstanding. It was in Rishikesh March 2012, when the first shot was fired…
A what a glorious day it had been. It was in fact my return to Rishikesh after a brief visit several months prior. It was warm day with a succulent breeze drifting down off the Himalayan foothills; all was peaceful, all was well.
My princess bride and I were strolling up the North West bank of the Ganga, just past the Ram Jhula bridge We were chatting quietly and sharing a bag of roasted peanuts, laughing as I had been lightheartedly enjoying the monkeys all day, watching them as they happily engaged in their mischievous antics. We were marveling at their dexterity and laughing as they did cute lil human things with their hands!! Such a fool was I. It was that moment I spied him. He who was to be the instigator of this conflict, perched casually atop a low wall. Nibbling on a bit of something or other he had procured by, unbeknownst to me at that time, dastardly means.
I wanted nothing more than to preserve this lovely day on film. I quickly handed my camera to my companion and asked her to snap a picture of my latest anthropoidean comrade and I. Humbly submitted, she tried to protest, even warn me, but I dismissed her with a wave of my hand. Immediately I started making the internationally recognized “kissy kissy” noise of peace that is understood by all wildlife. With full intent of sitting down beside, and possibly high fiving my new-found furry friend, I approached rapidly. In hind sight, it was obvious he was looking at me with utter astonishment! I walked so brashly towards him, stunned he allowed my encroachment without protest…until I breached the three-foot barrier…and that…is when he tried to eat me.
I escaped the melee….but just…I was uninjured, but shaken. I slunk away in shame and embarrassment under a barrage of laughter and jeers from witnesses to the incident. What a sight I must have been, a white middle-aged man shrieking like a little girl and being chased by a somewhat bemused, teeth baring monkey who was doing a little shrieking all of his own….NOTHING TO SEE HERE!! NOT FUNNY!! MOVE ALONG CITIZENS!! Needless to say, I was devastated.
Still inconsolable later that day, I found myself wandering lost, confused and without purpose. I sought the much respected spiritual advice of some guy I saw sitting on the side of the road, and after a lengthy consultation it was obvious, I didn’t understand a god damned word he was saying. But the intent of his council was more than clear….it was to be simian war!
Monkeys 1 – Hippy 0
Early the next morning, I was manning my look out post. Gazing out the window of my hotel and observed the enemy planning their next attack. I could see their scouting party on the veranda four floors below, scheming, plotting. How could I have been so wrong about these creatures, they are so clearly bred of pure evil?!
I had pulled the sofa over to the window at around 4:30 am still suffering from some jet lag, I flopped on it now I put my feet up on the sill of the floor to ceiling window, lit a cigarette and recollected my conversation with the desk clerk at check in. He had warned not to leave the window open (they are unscreened for some reason) as the monkeys will enter your room, open the mini bar, and clean it out….and I would have to pay for any and all items missing! I chuckled at the thought. How ridiculous, a monkey coming into my room and eating all the snacks in the mini…ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK!!!
I was caught completely off guard as a grubby little paw grasped the edge of the wooden sill inches from my foot! Seconds later, a disgusting fur filled monkey face appeared in my window! He was breaching my perimeter!!! In a moment of panic, I fired a wild shot from the hip (flicked my cigarette) at him… he ducked at the last moment. A MISS! Quickly I re-strategized and moved to counter attack plan B. I leaned forward and slammed the window on his wee lil beasty face! I don’t know if he fell the entire four floors down, but he sure as hell screamed like he did!
Monkeys 1 – Hippy 1
The next skirmish was several months later, again in Rishikesh. It seemed unwarranted, after all, I now had officially moved to India! I was living here! My son was visiting from Canada and wanted to see this spiritual haven I was always speaking about. I feel I must explain; my son does have a fascination with monkeys; ever since he was a little boy, he loved them. His very first email id was monkeysrulebigtime@ for God’s sake! But he was no longer a child, he was a young man, and young men younger than him had stormed the beach at Normandy! If we were heading behind enemy lines, he needed to hear the facts.
1. Don’t make eye contact
2. Don’t attempt to feed them
3. Don’t attempt to touch them
4. Don’t approach them
5. Don’t this them
6. Don’t that them
7. They are not nice
8. They do not like you
9. They will attack
10. Don’t, don’t, DON’T!
He seemed to be listening with that blank “ya ya I got you” stare that teens offer up while you are presenting vital, life saving information. I knew the demon primates still had him under their spell, drunk with their wicked intoxication of lies and acrobatics. I would be diligent, I would protect him, I must…he is my son.
It had just finished raining, a heavy mist still hung in the pre battle air. It was quiet, an eerie calm had settled in after the relentless drumming of the morning storm. The enemy had taken up a strong strategic position, lining the Ram Jhula Bridge, almost from end to end. We had to cross The Ganges; it was my sons last day in Rishikesh…we needed to be on the far bank. With a quick recap of our joint operation planning points 1 through 10, we set off across the bridge.
We executed a slow deliberate meander…ignoring the hirsute sentinels perched above. Edging ever forward, yard by yard, bit by bit, and almost to the exit point disaster struck! A Mommy Monkey, feigning cuteness and adorability sitting on the rail at the bridge exit! Complete with Baby Monkey clutched to her chest! They had set up an ambush in plain sight…evil genius! Utterly transfixed and whispering “Awwwww”, my son started moving towards her! I was frozen in terror…standing helpless as he reached out; a weak and horrified “NOOOOO!!!” escaped from the strangled confines of my throat!! That is when the male, cleverly hidden behind a sway brace of the exit…tried to eat my son.
Monkeys 2 – Hippy 1
After sending my son back to Canada, unhurt but much wiser in the ways of Monkey, Mrs. R and I headed to Nepal to take a break from this damned war. After a few lovely days in Kathmandu, everything seemed to return to normal. The serenity of Nepal skewed my vision, skewed it enough to believe a visit to The Monkey Palace, Swayambhu Stupa, would be safe. Traipsing right into their headquarters, not just the lion’s den, but sticking my head in to its mouth…I had taken complete leave of my senses!
We climbed to the summit of the temple, hundreds of stairs and stares, surrounded by them…everywhere, watching us with curious eyes. I was still under the delusion that these were Nepalese monkeys and were in no way connected to Indian monkeys. I actually felt safe! With my preposterous notion intact, I was about to learn that Monkeys is Monkeys; a solidified band of bristly brothers. They know no borders; only their enemy, where ever he may roam.
He was clandestinely concealed, crouched in readiness as I leaned against the barricade for a photo with the cityscape of Kathmandu stretched out far below. Smiling, saying cheese and…ATTACK!! He sprung, like a tiger; I didn’t see him coming until it was far too late! Monkey maniac was in a frenzy of lust, attracted to my Ray Ban sunglasses (who knows why, a monkey’s mind is a mystery) that were perched atop my head. I was still standing in “cool dude photo pose mode” as he snatched them and made off to the safety of a nearby tree! A tree that was at least ten feet from the barricade wall separating the top terrace of the temple from the cliff.
In his security, he began mocking me…laughing at me; he had my Ray Bans…I love my Ray Bans! He waved them back and forth, taunting me. It looked, for a moment, as if he may try them on for size (he kind of resembled Tony Curtis in his prime, very sexy, it may have been a good look for him), but he obviously had no fashion sense! NONE! He flung them carelessly and they fell the 200 feet into the ravine below. Frantically, I used the zoom lens on my camera to locate them as the monkey’s laughter rained down on me. No no no!!!They were just too far down, seeable, but un-retrievable….lost forever. My primate curses echoed throughout the temple.
Monkeys 3 – Hippy 1
It was spinning out of control. This thing had escalated to monumental proportions! Now, innocent sunglasses’ lives were being lost! We retreated to New Delhi. I was beaten and broken. My sister was coming for a visit next spring and she surely would also want to travel into the heart of Monkey held territory, Jaipur… Rishikesh. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!! And before her arrival… I only had a few months. Was it possible? Could I fashion a cease-fire by then? Would they listen? Be willing? Could there be peace between Hippy and Monkey???