Around Town / India

A Monkey Tale

Eggs at the market.  This market is the reason we cross into monkey territory several times a week.  

As you may or may not know, New Delhi has something of a monkey problem.  The neighborhood where my sister-in-law lives, across the street from the Embassy, is particularly infested.  It’s sometimes impossible to put more than 15 feet between ourselves and a pack of monkeys.

They look so cute from a distance, the babies are adorable, the Mama monkeys seem so disarmingly motherly, occasionally swatting a naughty youngster or gently cuddling a tiny baby.

They aren’t so cute though when they are ransacking your patio, stealing your wallet, or attacking your person.  They have no qualms about harassing, biting seriously injuring people who won’t give them what they want.  Monkeys even killed a New Delhi mayor when a pack of them chased him off his balcony a few years ago.  In addition to food, they like shiny things, like phones and jewelry.  They are smart and also a little bit vindictive.

Last month, a teacher at the Embassy school tried squirting water at a monkey that landed on his own balcony.  The monkey fled as desired, but returned a few hours later with the rest of his clan.   Monkeys pounded on the windows, shredded his plants, smashed pots, trashed furniture and even tossed some of it over the railing and onto the ground several stories below.

My mother-in-law was on her way to buy flowers last week when a male monkey happened to be in the area and came running at her, teeth barred and gnashing.  He was scared off at the last minute only by the flower-wallah who came running and waving a big stick.  My mother-in-law said afterwards that she didn’t know she could scream like she did at that moment.


Today it was just me and Will on our way home from the market in Malcha Marg.  As I turned down the street towards the Embassy, I felt that hair-rising-on-the-back-of-my-neck, sinking feeling that I’d somehow just made a mistake.  Then I saw what it was.

6 men and a monkey.  A big monkey, at least 70 or 80 pounds, perched on a fence.  He was angry and hissing and clawing madly at the air in front of him, held back from what would seem to be a bloody rampage by a gang of men and boys clinging desperately to the monkey’s tail on the opposite side of the fence from Will and I.

The men, the monkey and I all saw each other at the exact same instant.  The monkey howled and snarled at me, the men’s faces went ashen with panic and they started shouting and pulling at the monkey’s tail now in renewed desperation.  My hunch is that the big monkey was actually brought in by a monkey-wallah (a man hired to have his big monkey pee all over the little monkey territory and scare them away) who suddenly went rogue.

Whatever the monkey’s reason for being there and being so viciously angry, we were too close to stop moving or turn around.  The monkey had already seen us and if we changed course, who knew which direction he would lurch in and whether the men would be able to keep their grip.  I wrapped my arms around as much of Will’s body as I could cover, put my head down, and then made a break for it, run-walking as fast as I could, past the monkey and down the block.  I could almost feel the sighs of relief from the 6 monkey-wrangling men behind my back as they watched us make it safely to the traffic light on the corner.

It all happened too fast to be afraid, though I suppose we would have been dangerously screwed had those men lost their grip on the monkey’s tail.  The real problem is that my sister-in-law has to walk down that same street at least twice a day on her way to work and back.  Talk about terrifying.

In other, far less scary news, a la Instagram:

Will likes leeks.  Raw leeks are preferred (ditto for raw garlic, onion and lemon?) but he’ll settle for leeks lightly sauteed in butter.  He’s also figured out how to pose for pictures.


The leeks were for this dish:

Homemade mapo doufu.  It’s surprisingly easy and incredibly satisfying to make at home, though I’d never had any reason to try making it myself until now.


We have our kitchen chalkboard back and our artwork up on the walls.  A photo tour of the house is coming up soon…



5 thoughts on “A Monkey Tale

  1. We just had our own monkey encounter. Evan screamed for what seemed like a minute. They can be very mean! And again, crazy me talking again, but I want to move again and set up a new house! hahah

  2. This is so alarming. I had no idea the monkey’s were such an issue. I would be so scared. Is there anything you can arm yourself with if faced with that situation alone? I also can’t wait for the photo tour!

  3. Pingback: Humayun’s Tomb & Other Assorted Adventures « Hot Pot

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