18 October 2007

Monkeys monkeys everywhere

Several years ago I went to India. I was living in Taiwan and decided to go since the plane ticket would only be half the cost from there as it would from anywhere in this hemisphere. I’ve wanted to visit India for as long as I can remember. I am completely fascinated with everything about the country: its languages, cultures, music, clothes, flora and fauna, religions…everything! I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to go.

I had only a film camera at the time and it’s taken my ofttimes slow brain until now to realize that I could have all those negatives put on a disc (this was also before I discovered Snapfish) but now that I have the pictures digitally I will be posting random tidbits about India.

I mentioned above that one of the fascinations India holds for me is its flora and fauna. I love tigers; they are my favorite of favorites in the animal kingdom. Not far behind them are elephants (although I’ll admit to admiring the majesty of the African elephant more than their somewhat lesser cousin the Asian elephant…). And whereas I’ve ridden elephants (of the African persuasion) and have actually handled tigers (both Siberian cubs and a four year old Siberian male)…camels and monkeys I have only ever seen in zoos. Well I certainly got my fill of monkeys in India!! They’re all over the place and are rather a nuisance.

In Pushkar the monkey population was…for lack of another word…mean. I remember one day I was wandering around the vats and decided to cross a bridge basically just to see what was on the other side (mind you, it was a holy bridge so no shoes allowed and it was about 150 degrees and the bridge was burning hot). I got to the other side, gratefully put my shoes back on, and was promptly stopped in my tracks by a massive cow blocking the narrow path.

As I turned to head back I noticed a monkey sitting in a niche in the wall about a foot and a half away from me. It was the closest I had yet been to a monkey. I was so excited and slowly, so as to not startle it, raised my camera to take a picture. He on the hand, had other ideas. I made to move towards me, opened his mouth to bare its huge, thick fangs, and screamed at me. I was so terrified I ran back across that bridge, with my shoes on, not caring which god I offended.

The monkeys I encountered in Jaipur had completely different attitudes. My fabulous rickshaw driver (over whom to this day I still feel guilt because I don’t know if I really gave him enough money) took me to Monkey Temple. I’m sure there dozens upon dozens of monkey temples all over India either because they are dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman, or, like this one, they are simply infested with monkeys. At the bottom of the mountain (my fabulous driver did not tell me that the temple was in a mountain valley and I had to walk to get there) we bought monkey food with which we could feed all of them. I was actually a little afraid of them, they have strong grips and they could have been rabid…but I survived.

All in all, Monkey Temple was very interesting. The temples themselves are roughly two thousand years old and long since abandoned to the monkeys and the once holy vats are now used as a swimming hole…but by men only of course.

Pentax 35mm on full manual

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