AsiaIndiaShimla

In India, we call them...

Shimla Travel Blog

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In 1994 I was travelling around India by train. I had been in India about a week and had just travelled from Varanasi to a small Himilayian Hill station.There I had my first run-in with a semi-beligerent monkey. It was the first of several such encounters. However, I never noticed any monkeys riding the trains. Apparently, in the subsequent decade, the monkeys of India have made an evolutionary leap and begun adopting mass transit as a means to get around: "They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, but Indias Delhi Metro has hired a monkey to frighten off other monkeys from boarding trains and upsetting passengers. In an effort to keep monkeys out of the New Delhi subways, authorities have called in one of the few animals known to scare the creatures a fierce-looking primate called the langur, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
" In fact, it turns out that the hired gun monkeys are the same species (the gray langur) as the first scary looking monkey I surprised while out on a walk to an Indian boarding school on the outskirts of town, overlooking the village and it's centerpiece lake. And that's the elaborate set-up for one of my favorite personal anecdotes. I don't have the anecdote memorized. I always wing it and riff off it depending on the reactions I'm getting while telling the story. And I have never tried to write it down before and I'm sure it loses much in going from verbal to written (particularly given the author's obvious limitations). Nevertheless, the set-up alone demands I take a decent crack at it. As I waited on the platform in Varanasi for the train to Shimla, I was approached by a middle aged Indian man who asked where I was from.
I told him I was an American and it turned out that he was also headed to Shimla. We struck up a conversation that continued during the 4 hour trek to Shimla. The man's name was Mr. "Rai" (that was short for Raipathang or something but that's what he wanted to be called). He had two boys with him both about 12 years old. He was taking them to the prep school in Shimla at which he was the headmaster. Before we parted he invited me for dinner at the school and drew up some directions for me to use to get there. As I walked up the hillside path, I rounded a corner and was confronted by a huge gray monkey who bared teeth at me and then shambled off to the side of the little road. So that was kind of scary but also kind of cool. At dinner with Mr. Rai and his family, I told them about how the monkey scared me and they laughed and said, "No, you scared it." i asked, "Mr. Rai, what do you call them?" He replied simply, "In India, we call them (pause for dramatic effective) 'monn-keee'." "No shit Mr. Rai? That's what we call 'em in America!" Actually, I didn't say that last part. I just let Mr. Rai's statement stand in the air for awhile as though I were profoundly satisfied by the wisdom he had imparted to me and then promptly changed the subject.
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12,296 km (7,640 miles) traveled
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Shimla
photo by: laylazz