By Michelle Kholos, 5/25/2001
High in the Indian Himalayas, at the top most point of the city of Simla, sits the Hindu Jakou Temple. It is otherwise known as the Temple of the Monkey God. But to me it is and always will be the place I was felt-up by a wild monkey.
Now getting felt-up in India was nothing new. Anyone who’s flown there domestically knows you have to go through a number of different check-points, including, for women anyway, stepping behind a curtain where a polite Indian woman dutifully pats you down. And I mean pats you down thoroughly to the point where you don’t know if you should hide your head in shame or thank her for the moment. Besides that, people in India seem to have a different sense of space than Americans. They’re generally not grabby or rude, however they tend to stand awfully close. But it wasn’t the people that bothered me. It was the monkey.
See someone told me that since there were so many monkeys hanging around the monkey temple, I would surely be able to record their sounds for the Savvy Traveler. I jumped at the opportunity to record real monkey chatter.
More than halfway up to the temple my guide, a young guy named Drouvj, turned to me in the back seat and said in the most innocent way, “M’am, you don’t want to take anything out of the car with you. The monkeys might think it’s food. “But Drouvj”, I said, “I need to take my microphone and minidisc so that I can record the sound of the monkeys”. “I don’t think you should do that M’am”, Drouvj said, “The monkeys might take it”.
Clearly Drouvj did not understand the purpose of my mission. I considered hiding my microphone in my shirtsleeve. What would a monkey want with a microphone anyway? It didn’t smell like food or look like food. But when we arrived I decided to leave my microphone behind for awhile. Hundreds of monkeys were staring at us. And these are not the cute little chimps you see performing charming antics on the Discovery Channel. Drouvj warned, “M’am, do not make eye contact with the monkeys.
In the temple. Drouvj pointed out the pictures of the Monkey God lining the walls. I watched people bow and pray at the altar, taking in the sweet smell of incense and dried flowers. When we stepped outside I considered going back for my mic. But then Droujv said, “M’am, don’t move. The monkey wants to see if you have any food”. That’s when I felt a small, scratching sensation on the leg of my jeans. I looked down and caught a glimpse of a monkey on it’s hind legs, which means it came up to my waist, patting me down to see if I was packing any monkey food. I looked over at Drovj in horror. “Make it go away”’ I said between my clenched teeth. “M’am”, Drouvj said calmly, “you must stay still. Do not upset the monkey.” Right, God forbid the hairy beast picking my pockets should be upset. Meanwhile the monkey had moved from the leg of my jeans and was, I swear, lifting up my sweater to search through the front pockets of my pants. Finding nothing of interest, he swung around to go through my back pockets. It felt like he took hours although, being a swift and practiced thief, I’m sure the monkey only took a minute. When he finally decided I was of no use, he swaggered away leaving me feeling dirty and foul. “M’am, one more-- two more monkeys seem to be coming to you.” Droujv noticed. “Let’s get out of here”, I said.
As we headed swiftly down the path under the knowing eyes of the other monkeys I noticed something that hadn’t even occurred to me earlier. The monkeys didn’t make any noise at all.
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