December 14th, 2007
Now – about that monkey…
I had one day to myself in Mumbai before my flight home to New Jersey, and, after consulting a guidebook, I decided to visit Elephanta Island – which is a 45 minute journey by steamer from the Gateway to India in Mumbai.
Covered with a dense forest and devoid of any large scale modern construction, Elephanta Island was a welcome reprieve from the crowded and (thanks to the predilection of Mumbai taxi drivers to lean on their horns) noisy streets of Mumbai. Once off the boat, I took a short walk up about 200 stone steps to the site of ancient Hindu temples carved into the basalt rock that formed the island. A UNESCO site, the main temple “cave” is dedicated to Shiva, and includes magnificent tableaus depicting an assortment of tales about the diety.
A remarkable site – and well worth the 200 Rupee boat ride.
When leaving the cave, I noticed a family of monkeys sitting on a fence rail overlooking a ravine, and thought it would be a nice shot for my daughter. As I fumbled with my camera, the male in the group – as big as a cocker spaniel — came towards me, snarling and showing his teeth. Next thing I knew, he was jumping at me, trying to grab my water bottle. I shook him off to peels of laughter from the other tourists.
I shrugged it off and proceeded on my way — but upon my return I could see my attacker waiting for me in a pack of monkeys some way off. He caught my eye, and made a running assault, weaving between the other tourists. This time he successfully planted himself on my arm and made a play for my water bottle. That, however, made it a bit easier to avoid his teeth when I flung him off, which I did with great alacrity.
The women near me, some in beautiful saris, laughed politely.
Why me? Why my water bottle? I still don’t know, but I have some suspicions.
I’m a simple Midwesterner at heart — and have often been accused of being too “nice.” For instance, while waiting for the boat to depart Mumbai, I foolishly forgot the fine art of haggling and and ended up buying a guide book to the island for a 200 percent mark-up. I suspect the guy knew he had a live one when he first laid his eyes on me — a suspicion reinforced by the fact that he didn’t even bother approaching the other passengers.
Seeing me lolloping along — water bottle in one hand and camera in the other — perhaps the monkey also had me pegged as an easy mark. I’m just glad he didn’t go for my camera…
PS — Coincidentally, CNN had a piece today on another monkey problem — this one in New Delhi.