This is India: Monkeys
On a recent visit to Mumbai I saw some Indian’s trying to feed a biscuit to a Monkey and he seemed angry. I heard three separate people nearby muttering that monkeys don’t like biscuits, with a tone as if to say, “Everyone Knows THAT!” In the US the only place you’ll find a monkey is at the zoo and I think it would be safe to say that the monkeys are one of the most popular animals in any zoo. It’s fun to watch them eat bananas and swing from trees, and maybe we see a little of ourselves in the cute way they communicate with each other. So when Americans come to India, they inevitably get excited about monkeys. I have yet to see a wild monkey in Kolkata – though my mother-in-law tells a great story about a 4 foot tall monkey she met on her morning walk… If it’s monkeys you want to see, I’d say Delhi (and the whole golden triangle for that matter) is the place to be.
However, each Sunday, the children of Kolkata are treated to a monkey show. These men – presumably all related or graduates from Monkey U. – roam the residential streets of Kolkata, beating a tiny drum with two monkeys at his heels. Our neighborhood MonkeyWallah knows our son and will stop in front of our house and play his drum a little longer than anywhere else, hoping the silly foreigner will give him more money. However, by now, I think I could do his monkey show myself. The “play” consists of a Boy Monkey (named Shahrukh – I’m serious) and a Girl Monkey (Kajol) who fall in love, get married, and then Shahrukh dies and goes to heaven. This is all done with costumes, dancing, singing and the drama of a Bollywood hit - packed into a dense 5 minute play. At the end you pay your Rs.20 and watch as the monkeys each eat a small banana.
I don’t see many people stopping these guys for shows. Which is sad, since I’m not sure how else this guy and his monkeys make a living. However, the minute I que up a show there will suddenly be 10, 20, 30 people crowding around smiling and laughing at something, I presume, they’ve seen about a million times. I’m sure it’s one of those comforting events for most that reminds them of their childhood or a simpler time when this was their only form of entertainment. But maybe, just maybe, Indians like monkeys just as much as us foreigners.