Wednesday 28 May 2014

Monkey Trouble (குரங்குகளின் அட்டகாசம்)

Monkeys are fascinating animals, especially when you are fortunate enough to observe them in their habitat. The small town on the foothills of Western Ghats, where I grew up, was an abode for exotic flora and fauna, various animals and birds and numerous insects, to name a few. Of these, monkeys were notorious. As children we were lucky to watch them at their mischievous best and equally unlucky to be the victims of their tricks.

Vegetation of all kind flourished in our fertile soil and we grew vegetables, fruits and flowers. We used to religiously water the hibiscus (செம்பருத்தி), jasmine (மல்லிகை), jungle flame (இட்லி பூ), fire cracker flower (கனகாம்பரம்), Philippine violet (டிசம்பர் பூ) and rose (ரோஜா) plants; coconut, mango and neem trees; and brinjal, ladies finger, tomato and green chilly plants. Every now and then monkeys will descend on our garden, uproot the plants, and eat up all vegetables, flowers and even buds, except green chillies and roses! And if by chance a door was open, they would enter the house and create mayhem.

To facilitate good ventilation, my father decided to have cement grills with circular patterns for the verandah. Unfortunately the circles in the grill were large enough to let the monkeys in. My father's room upstairs had a desk with an adjoining window. On a holiday, while reading a story book sitting at my father's desk, I was distracted by some movement. To my horror I found a monkey stretching out his hand through the window grill to pick up the pens from the table. I flew out of the room, thudded down the stairs, screaming my head off, only to find four monkeys standing in the hall. The leader of the troupe bared his teeth at me. I hastily retreated to my father’s room leaving the household to handle the uninvited visitors.

The town landscape was lush green, with lovely trees – mango, jack fruit, banyan (ஆல மரம்), peepal (அரச மரம்) and even teak (தேக்கு). Some were very old, and we used to hang around under these trees. They provided shade from Sun light in summer and shelter from sudden unexpected drizzle or down pour during rainy season. These trees also attracted troupes of monkeys, which lived on their fruits. Once, while on my way to the school with my friends, a monkey from one of the trees singled me out and snatched my school bag – a new canary yellow shoulder bag I managed to get after much pleading and begging from my parents. He took the bag up the tree, opened it, threw the books and note books hither and thither, finally opened my tiffin box and ate up the idlies. Sadly, I was left only with a torn bag, few missing books and a tiffin box without a lid!

Monkeys’ visitations became more frequent and the number of their victims increased day by day. So, a petition was duly submitted to the municipality requesting urgent action. A meeting was convened to decide on further course of action. As most people feared hurting monkeys would invite the wrath of the Gods, it was decided to capture them. The next few days saw hectic action and a few monkey catchers were engaged by the authorities. With great difficulty monkeys were captured in sacks and were released high up on the mountains. All of us knew that sooner than later monkeys will descend to the town. In the mean time, we could have our flowers, fruits and vegetables growing well and get on with our daily lives without fear. At last, there was relief from monkey trouble, albeit temporary. 

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