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09 May 2014

Monkey see

THREE MEAN-looking rhesus monkeys were standing at the hallway outside my flat when I stepped out. They were staring at me menacingly, probably waiting for me to make the first move. I didn't. I fled back inside the house and locked the door. A few minutes later, I went out and saw them still in the same location, in the same position. It took a while for them to move, and when they did, I ran downstairs for the car park.

In recent years, thousands of rhesus macaque monkeys have swarmed over urban India. In Delhi, these wild monkeys have had mean encounters with humans when they look for food, especially during the hot summer months. There have been reports of them breaking into houses; in 2007, a deputy mayor fell to his death from his terrace while trying to fend off an attack from these marauders.

However, not much has been done to permanently give these monkeys a sanctuary. Monkeys are revered by Hindus as incarnations of Hanuman, the monkey god, so culling them has not been successful. Recently, larger langur monkeys were used by trained "monkey catchers" to scare the rhesus away, but such practice has been banned by the national wildlife authorities.

Hopefully, it will be my first and last monkey encounter at home―or any other place―in Delhi. I have no business for monkey business in this troubling city.

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