Two little monkeys jumping on a bed — you know the song — one falls off and breaks his head. Well, instead of it being monkeys jumping on a bed, it’s two little monkeys riding on a motorcycle. Although monkeys can be a common sight in India, this picture captured by Tyler driving home from work last week, was a first to see them riding on a motorcycle.
Although the novelty of seeing a monkey swinging from a tree, walking along the sidewalk, or crawling down from a building still has not worn off for me, my understanding of monkeys here has definitely made me more hesitant to get near them. The large capital city of India has an abundance of monkeys and they are not afraid of people or making sure they obtain what they want from humans.
In the neighborhood where we live, it is only on occasion that we will see one, but in some other areas, not far from where we live, they are a definite problem. Such a problem, that sometimes the human feels like they are “caged in” their home due to the presence of the monkeys found outside. Enlisting a man that owns larger monkeys, called langur monkeys, to urinate on buildings, houses, and the land around it can help a bit. The small, abundant rhesus macaque monkeys will not cross the territory of a larger monkey, like the langur, so if they smell the urine of that monkey, it discourages them from stepping on the grounds of that property. According to a New York Times article in 2012, one langur handler has 65 of these monkeys urinating on prominent homes and buildings throughout Delhi. After the smell of the urine wears off, usually a few weeks, he repeats the routine, charging about $200 a month for the service. The American Embassy School keeps an eye on “monkey invasions” and do their part in keeping the monkeys off the school grounds by using such techniques, according to Hailey.
Why the problem in such an urban city? Where there is food, they will come, and Indians don’t shy away from leaving some food for the monkey. This may stem from their Hindu religion where one of the gods is in the form of a monkey, or it may just be that like the stray dogs everywhere and the wandering cows, Indians don’t mind feeding the monkeys as well.
The worry about feeding the monkey, though, is that the mouth just might bite the hand that feeds it. Monkey bites are common enough that each of us got the rabies vaccinations upon our arrival here. With each of our children going to the various weeklong school trips throughout India each year, the school recommended it. The rabies vaccination consists of 3 different shots that have to be given in a certain order. If we then get bitten by a monkey, it does not prevent us from getting more shots, but at least fewer of them. How common is it? Well, common enough that we met our first victim during our first month living here sitting in the doctor’s office.
A toddler aged girl, from Israel, was waiting in the doctor’s office to get her last rabies shot from her monkey bite. The girl’s mother said that her daughter just happened to be walking along the sidewalk and got in between a mother monkey and her baby monkey. The toddler appeared to be a threat to that mother’s baby so she ended up getting a nice bite from the mother. Fortunately, she has physically recovered from it, but the mother is not sure she will ever like seeing a monkey again. The monkeys where Hailey took her school trip last year were not timid at all and jumped down into their open jeep at one point.
It is said that a monkey can smell the food in the wrapper and if it decides to take that backpack, purse or camera strap, it is best just to hand it over. As for me, I prefer singing the “monkeys on the bed” song or witness them happily riding on the motorcycle of their owner instead of landing on my head.