A R C H I V E
India-Letters #6: "Monkeys & More"
October 5, 1999 Dear friends, Thanks for all the caring messages about my typhoid adventure. We met an American here in Bangalore a few weeks back who had had typhoid fever some years ago while living in Cambodia. It made me feel quite lucky. My case was a walk in the park compared to hers. There's been quite a delay since my last letter, and in the short time I have left here (we depart Bangalore on October 31st), I'm going to try switching tactics. From now on, each e-mail will just contain a single story rather than a small collection of them, as I had been sending. I think the collection-format is superior edutainment, but I think you all would rather receive something rather than never receive something else that might be superior. I'm not sure what it is about being here, but daily life seems so much more full of surprises than it did back home. Come to think of it, it also seems so much more full of... monkeys. Read on... -- THE MONKEY-TACO STORY PART 1 (by guest columnist Meeta Kapadia) So, I'm out running errands (this a few months ago) and it's around lunchtime. I think it was a Sunday actually. Luke was just starting to feel sick and I was getting over a bad cold so we had been eating brown rice consistently for days. I had gone out to the local coffee shop to spend some time alone, writing in my journal. On the way home, I stopped by Food World, the local supermarket, to pick up some groceries (some more brown rice, I think!). It so happened that it was the last day of a Mexican Food Festival that had been going for a week, so I decided to have a taco. The festival was being run by our new friend Ragunath who used to live in New York and worked in a pizza place in Penn Station! He started making Mexican food in Bangalore after he and his family moved back to India. His daughter demanded that he either make Mexican food for her or take her back to New York! Anyway, I chatted with Ragunath, ate my taco (minus the sour cream, of course) and got one to go for Luke, who, poor thing, was home blowing his nose. (I know he shouldn't have been eating a taco, but you know, when it's the last taco you might be having for three and a half months, you eat the taco even though it may not be the healthiest thing in the world.) Here's the crazy part (as if Mexican food made in India isn't nuts enough!). I walk home, enter our apartment complex, bypass the elevator, and start up the five flights of stairs to our flat. I round the landing of the third floor, and there's a monkey staring right at me! Well, he (or she, I'm not sure) started coming towards me. To be more specific, he was heading directly towards the safely-guarded taco for Luke in my left hand. I said, "No!"... and then repeated myself in Hindi... just in case. Well, the monkey was pretty persistent, so I backed up and pushed the elevator button, hoping to make my escape. Unfortunately, someone had left the elevator door open on another floor, so no elevator was coming to my rescue. I looked down into the shopping bag in my right hand and contemplated throwing a tomato at it but decided that I needed the tomato for dinner that night. The monkey was still coming towards my left hand so I called down the stairwell for Devu (our elevator/mail/delivery/just a cool guy) and he came, and right behind him were two more monkeys! In my stammering Hindi, I told him I was scared and he kind of shooed the monkeys away (they were almost as big as Luke's eight-year-old sister Monica!) and I ran up the stairs and rang our doorbell as fast as I could. Luke opened the door, and I rushed inside. Then, mumbling about monkeys, I handed him his (by now slightly soggy) taco and breathed a huge sigh of relief. -- THE MONKEY-TACO STORY PART 2 A sign appeared on the notice board of our apartment block. It read: SOMERSET APARTMENTS A, B, & C BLOCKS N O T I C E Families in 'B' Block are making it a regular practice of feeding monkeys every day. This is encouraging the monkeys who after the feed ransak [sic] various apartments daily in A, B & C Blocks. We need to have a collective approach towards such problems. We request those families not to encourage in feeding the monkeys. By order Committee A,B & C Blocks Meeta saw the problem herself walking downstairs one day recently. There's an apartment on the third floor that has a bamboo mat over its doorway and the inhabitants keep their door open most of the time. As Meeta came down the flight of stairs she heard footsteps running through the apartment. A man emerged yelling and following a monkey which was holding a bunch of yellow bananas. The monkey leapt past Meeta onto the landing halfway up the stairs and began eating a banana. The man stood outside his apartment looking at the monkey, shaking his head with a smile. -- THE MONKEY-TACO STORY PART 3 (by guest columnist Brad Paton) "I almost forgot to mention the most exciting bit of news since arriving in Bangalore. On returning from our day in the city yesterday (including two rounds of bowling, at which I at least broke 100!!), we discovered that monkeys had broken into Luke and Meeta's apartment and managed to steal a bag of snacks, which they left half-eaten on the outside sill, and knock over the top of a pot of chick peas. So I fixed their window so it would at least close, and in the process broke one of the claws off their hammer (cheap steel!). Entertaining at least." -- SHORTS: IN PRINT IN INDIA On the label of a hand-woven shirt Meeta got for me: "Top quality, Coulourfast, Gentle to skin, No sensitive, Won't cause cancer" In a newspaper advertisement: "Now! First time in Bangalore. Bread with Expiry Date." In an ad for a scooter: "Family-sized!" On a big billboard in the heart of town. "Diet Pepsi. 1 calorie / great tast." I kid you not. I even took a picture of it: -- That's it for now. More soon... All my best, Luke