When you come to visit, you’ll probably take photos of them at the president’s palace, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You’ll think they’re cute. You’d be wrong. You might assume that the guards are poised to keep you out, but most days the guards spend a lot of time beating the trees with sticks and keeping them from washing their young in the fountains.
Delhi is home to well over 25,000 frightening monkeys that love to hang out in the parks and tranquil areas where every Tuesday and Saturday devotees of the monkey god Hanuman show up to feed them. It reminds me of my brother-in-law. In the front of their property in the hills above San Diego his wife fed the local little rabbits while at the back of the property he used the scampering bunnies to sight in his pellet gun. That was until his wife discovered the incriminating scratch marks carved into the side of his garage where he kept score.
Now the bunnies of North San Diego county and the monkeys of New Delhi nearly rule the streets. A few months ago at an historical site I was scouting for a picnic, a pack of monkeys began to trail me. I moved; they moved…and then edged six inches closer toward me. Keep in mind I never even liked the Wizard of Oz because of the flying monkeys. As I reached for a rock one of the guards in sign language frantically talked me out of it. As it turns out, you don’t dare try staring them down, raising your eyebrows, or reaching for a stick to fend them off.
Even local politicians aren’t immune. Just a few years ago the Deputy Mayor of Delhi, His Honor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, 52, was savoring his newspaper on a Sunday morning in late October when a gang of four monkeys hopped over the railing of his balcony dead set on his breakfast. He reached for a stick or a broom, lost his balance and fell to his untimely death. At last report, the felons are still on the loose. But there’s hope.
He works for $19 a month. In bananas. Where some people catch a bus, each day he’s chauffeured to his jobsite perched on the back of his owner’s skinned-up black bike. As job security goes, he hasn’t a care in the world. In neighborhoods and yards overrun with the famously fearsome rhesus monkeys, he lights from his bike, ambles like the new marshal in through the gate, yells some serious smack, and sprays blasts of urine on the corners of the property and about anywhere else he imagines its wafting fumes might strike fear into the ruffians. He’s a langur monkey with a kindly face, ready bladder, and an iron will that takes no guff from the more diminutive simians. By day’s end, he climbs back into his purpose-built saddle and rides off into the sunset. If only there were more of him.