By Devraj Singh Kalsi
It is often said that monkeys do not like to see their face in the mirror. They tend to screech with explicit dental intimidation if they happen to find themselves in front of one. Whether it is outright abhorrence for narcissistic indulgences that eggs the simians to adopt such a stance or anything else remains unknown, but my litany of encounters with a few specimens illustrate that exceptions also prevail here as everywhere else.
One sunny afternoon, a monkey sneaked in through the door left open by the domestic help who had stepped out to pick up woollens from the clothesline. Sensing positive vibes in the air, he proceeded into the living room and stood on his hind legs in front of a large full-length mirror, striking a confident, self-assured, and dignified pose to assess the overall look. When I lifted the curtain to have a full view of his antics, it was an invasion on his privacy and the facial expression of self-love melted into cheeky defiance. Before I could guess what would happen next, the monkey bared his clenched yellow teeth and raised a palm and gave a resounding slap that made a perfect landing on my face.
As luck would have it, something more interesting caught his attention. The domestic help had just stepped in to discover my strange predicament. She genuflected at the threshold to pay obeisance to the unwanted guest. With such devotion on display, his mood changed from anger to happiness. While the monkey and my help gazed at each other, I quickly disappeared from the scene to arm myself with a stick for self-defence. When I returned, I found the monkey missing while my help was still lying prostrate. I had to bang the stick on the door to alert her and inform her that the monkey had left. She got up and looked around to check if he had gone out and concluded that the peaceful departure meant good luck for the house.
I said she was lucky he did not trample over her while exiting. I had missed his exit. I did not know whether the monkey swished his tail or made a quiet, unceremonious exit. The life-threatening experience was life changing as well. The domestic help kept on showering praise on the auspicious visit that would change my fortune soon. Perhaps the visit was too short – or it was the lack of gastronomic delight for the guest that deprived me of good luck. I should have served lemonade or cookies at least.
We were destined to meet again. On another afternoon, around the same time, I was caught unawares by the presence of another simian walking gracefully out of the open kitchen with a plastic jar of biscuits clutched firmly in one arm. I had just come out after having a bath when this scene exploded in front of my eyes. Though I was fully dressed to keep my assets safe, I was jolted by this free movement inside the house. What I could figure out without my spectacles was that this simian looked more feminine than the previous trespasser. Perhaps this was the companion, and she knew that this house had easy access and was worth visiting and exploring. While moving out, this one also made no rushed effort, as if familiar with the route. Was her memory sharper than mine? Honestly speaking, I often jumble up between exit and entry doors.
As soon as the monkey went out, some other of her flock descended from the roof and flanked her. She was quite skilled at pulling the lid off just like us. In no time, several hands took turns picking up digestive biscuits. Perhaps this good bonding has kept my clothes safe from any direct attack. Even if they are left out to dry, none of them make any mischief by pulling them off from the clothesline whenever they hop around in the compound in gay abandon. Before I could shout at any family member for this negligence, I was reminded there was no one else at home. I had been careless enough to have kept the door open when the courier arrived an hour ago.
They had been to the living room and the dining space – also to the kitchen. The bedroom and the study escaped their notice till then. I was dusting my books. The door had been left ajar. It was the perfect occasion for another visitor to fall in love with reading. While I was busy shuffling and stacking up on the upper shelves, I turned around to see one monkey sitting in front of the computer, fiddling with the mouse and the wire. I was about to jump off the small ladder to save my gadget when the simian tapped on the woofer, identifying the source of soothing music. I descended quickly to pick up some fluffy cushions from the settee to hurl at his face and started to chase him away by making whoosh-whoosh noises. The monkey felt offended, lost interest in the gadgets and rose suddenly, hitting the keyboard with his behind, toppling it along with the music discs kept at the edge of the table. Once he left without creating a ruckus, I was relieved and hoped such an encounter would not occur again though this household was familiar territory for them. However, if surprises are in store, you cannot avoid them.
On another day, when the puja ceremony for the vehicle was about to begin, a monkey came down from the parapet, picked up a coconut from the tray, and broke it into two right in front of our eyes. While he did the honours, the priest stood shell-shocked to witness the simian intervention that was timely, prompt, voluntary and intelligent to deserve a video reel that would go viral within hours. Wondering if he was trained for such impossible acts, he kept quiet. Sadly, not being prepared for this surprise deprived me of the opportunity to shoot a video. I had to convince him that the monkey chose to do so out of his free will. We must appreciate his decision to help us during the auspicious occasion with active participation, to make ordinary mortals realise that they can also perform feats that humanity world thinks is only the human forte.
They still had the instinct to help though we have forgotten to help fellow humans and other creatures of this planet. It was a timely reminder that we need to wake up and start working towards making this world a better place again. On that sombre note, we concluded the brief ceremony and enriched our minds with a broader outlook. The priest would remember this all his life. As expected, the news of a monkey breaking the coconut bought many people to my gate, who came looking for darshan of the trained resident monkey perched somewhere on the roof or a tree top.
 Holy vision
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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