Monkey Tales

Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh is predominantly famous for its Gorakhnath temple and Kushinagar, where Buddha is said to have left for his heavenly abode. There are a multitude of things that make a place famous. Currently, it is also famous as the city from where the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh hails. Located on the banks of river Rapti which swells up every few years and scares the population around it with the threat of flooding, it is a unique city which has all the typical peculiarities of UP and yet is a little more conservative than the rest of the state. The dialect is typical but the people are a lot simpler.

I do not intend talking about the city itself but about a special feature that affected my year and a half long stay here. I feel I owe it to them to dedicate this piece for the innumerable times I have cursed them under my breath. Rhesus macaques! Our set up being well tucked in, amidst Sal forests, it would be natural to have our friends visit us from time to time. Only, here they didn’t visit us- they stayed put. Hordes of ever multiplying, small-eyed, aggressive monkeys dotted the entire place.

I was expecting to see them as I had been fed on a lot of monkey tales prior to my entry past those secure gates. Tales of how a little monkey would be pushed into a house through the gap in the exhaust with proper briefing so that it would get in and open the latch for the troop of monkeys to get in and they would then march off with goodies, or the time when a lady drying her hair in the rare winter sun was cornered by the alpha male and two others aggressively so that she would not dare move, while the long line of monkeys made an entry past her front door and ransacked the place coming out shortly after with all that they could gather. The refrigerator, I was told was a personal favourite. No matter what you hear though, you are never ready until you see it for yourself!

Barely two days into our moving in, while we were still in the makeshift accommodation, did I get my first taste of the monkey menace. It was early morning and I had thrown open the wooden door to let some fresh air in while the mesh door was shut and thankfully, locked. I had my back towards the door of the two room set and was busy stirring in the chocolate into the milk I wa
s making for the children. They were sitting groggily on the chairs behind me when we all heard a violent tug at the door. There was a huge monkey and he was trying his best to open our door! Talk about blatant rudeness!! I stared at him angrily, a tigress in my own right since I was sure that the door was tightly latched. I was about to roar when he got summons and turned abruptly and left. If the children hadn’t witnessed the scene I could have concocted a tale of how I bravely shooed away an Alpha male!

After a few minutes I peeked outside, out of curiosity, to find a long line of monkeys walking in the direction of the room next door. I called out to my husband who was shaving telling him to apprise our neighbour for I was sure they were making it to his place. By the time, my husband got out, which was not more than two minutes, at best, I heard a man shouting. This was followed by a whole lot of monkeys running back in the direction they came from but with packets of biscuits and milk powder in their hands! The officer had left the door open, before going in for a shave, to let in the orderly with tea while his wife and infant had been fast asleep. They woke up only after it was too late!

Instances such as this were plenty. I had many little encounters with them too but the first was the scariest. I had gone for a walk with my daughter at about four in the evening. There were not very many people around at that time for it was warm. Why I chose the time was pretty much because the roads would be free of people but more so because it would also be relatively free of monkeys. They take their siesta pretty seriously. We were on our first round, happily talking about anything and everything when my daughter decided she’d like to jog and that she’d go ahead and wait for me. I agreed. When I caught up with her, we resumed our walk but hardly five steps down the road, we heard an angry screech (for want of a better word). I turned around to see a monkey snarling at me aggressively. He was a teenager in the monkey world, trying to act big. He succeeded in scaring me but my knee jerk is seldom running away (the tigress I told you was somewhere within me) so I took a step toward it and made a louder sound. He wasn’t expecting this-these smart alecs know humans by gender and what reactions to expect, so he wasn’t prepared for any sort of retaliation.

Meanwhile, I quickly pulled my daughter and made her walk in front of me so that I could act as a barrier between her and the monkey. I was in for a shock when I heard the same noise again, very close to me. This time I turned around swiftly and stamped my foot before realizing that he wasn’t the only one anymore. The alpha male appeared out of nowhere and sat beside this puny aggressive testosterone-in-action pest of a monkey! Three or four more had come into the scene. From the corner of my eye, I could see that there were many more of the tribe lying around. I hadn’t noticed them. Now, I was afraid but did not want my daughter to sense it. 

The stamping of my foot had driven the monkey a few steps behind but he continued his angry stance with the knowledge of having his protector beside him .The alpha male showed me his teeth but his body language was relatively sleepy by God’s grace and so, I turned once again all the while looking for a stone or something for our defense. That little brat came to attack mode again but I had spotted a discarded tyre which was cut so it would serve as a whip. My quick reflex surprised me (cornered tigresses are known to be agile) as I picked it up and ran at them letting out a scream and it worked. I turned, took my frozen daughter by the hand and marched off home which was by now just a fifty yards away. I had been brave but as we reached our door I was trembling. The walks were suspended for a long while after that. It must be noted that to ignore them is better than to show aggression when they are so many in number. They are known to be a truculent lot!

This piece however, is not about my bravado but about those annoying and endearing little frenzied nutcases. Every once in a while I used to peek out of my mesh door or window to catch them in action. The gay abandon with which they jumped from tree to tree or as they just jumped up and down the hedge, the different expressions that flitted across their face, their alert faces always looking about for food, the anxious call of a baby monkey for help as he reaches the top of the pipe but hasn’t the courage to let go to get on top of the roof and the immediate assistance provided by any monkey nearby by lending their tail and rear for him to clamber on to, are the many interesting glimpses that one can get to see.

Yet, one of the most natural and embarrassing of all their antics was their mating. They were at it all the time, every time, everywhere! On roof tops, on boundary walls, in your garden, on the road and can you believe it, even on the bonnet of your car!! If you happened to walk past them they would quickly disengage and pretend nothing happened and look around, not making eye contact while the impatient male waits for you to buzz off. As you get abreast them, he is back in action again, he can’t wait for you to cross. I guess he wouldn’t have bothered stopping at all but her sensibilities wouldn’t permit it! What was embarrassing about this was the time when your kid would point it out to you and say, “Look at those monkeys! They play in such a funny fashion. What are they up to?” Worse was when a friend walked into her daughters’ room one afternoon to see one on all fours and the other…well, you can imagine and peals of laughter. She asked them what they were doing and they innocently said they were playing the monkey game and sweetly asked her if she would care to join them. It’s a lot of fun they added!

These macaques were quite a menace wreaking havoc, breaking water lines, snatching goodies from women and children as they exited the shopping complex, attacking women having bitten quite a few, who had to take rabies shots while bearing the pain.

Action was taken by the authorities who got in Langurs to drive the macaques away. This is a usual practice and normally a success, but somehow, it backfired here. The two forces came to a monkey pact that the forest had enough place for both to co-exist, the unwritten rule being that the macaques must scoot from the area when the langurs decide to visit. This was strictly followed. The langurs made their presence felt once a week. Unlike the majestic, beautiful coated ones I had seen down south in Karnataka, these were thinner but more muscular, looked mean and attacked for no reason. Again, the targets were women or children. Their attack was not for food but random. They would come from behind in full speed and knock the victim to the floor and run away. Broken noses and bruised women were not unheard of. The dogs of the area had been trained to mind their own business too. Bark as much as you want but don’t you dare come near us!

The men and grown up boys managed to pass by without much ado though. My son would get me groceries and walk right past them and he was just in grade nine, but they wouldn’t give him a second look! Gender bias everywhere!!
Sitting far away from them, I do miss them in an odd sort of way. No, I don’t want that kind of life but I must admit they can touch your heart at times with their monkey behavior. It is an effort to control yourself when you see them huddling together in winters or when they look so hungry and vulnerable. They are wild though and need to be treated as such.


  1. Beautifully penned. Waiting for more. 👏👏👏

  2. Hahaha so true... I miss them sometimes... Nostalgic read

  3. Seriously miss them .... very nicely penned ... ha ha ha

  4. I can relate to such experiences with monkeys ,leopards etc. Brave girl you have put down this experience in a very interesting way.


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