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Monkeying Around in Vrindavana

by Ramesh Kallidai (Romapada Dasa)

Posted March 29, 2007

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This story appeared in the Asian Voice UK in a weekly column called 'Screaming Hot Bhajiyas'. The Asian Voice is the largest circulating English weekly for Indians in Britain.

Two friends of mine Bhavesh and Rishi texted me from India, "Reached New Delhi. Good journey. Safe."

Three days later, I got another text message saying, "In Vrindavan now. Great temples."

Next day, I got another message, "Delicious carrot halwa at Loi Bazaar in Vrindavan. Wish you were here."

And the last message I got was, "Help! Rishi is being chased by monkeys in Vrindavan. What should we do?"

I texted back, "Grab a stick and wave at the monkeys. That's all that keeps them at bay."

And its true - in some temple towns in India, the monkey population is greater than the human population. All you need to keep the monkeys from following you and grabbing things from your hands is a stout stick.

As soon as they come near you, you need to wave the stick at them and utter a stern shout - that will keep them away for exactly ten seconds. As soon as they get near you again, you repeat the same process of stick waving and shouting all over again.

In towns like Vrindavana, monkeys have formed organised gangs to terrorise humans. They even have their 'dons' - monkey leaders who lead the terrorisation. The people of Vrindavana have a love-hate relationship with them. They love everything about the town, including the monkeys as 'associates' of Lord Krishna, but also know how to discipline them when they get out of line.

When my mother, Jaganmata devi dasi, came back from a pilgrimage to Vrindavana fifteen years ago, she told me, "I had gone to the temple to buy some samosas to take back to our hotel. As I was walking back, a monkey jumped in front of me, grabbed the samosas from my hands and disappeared into the trees."

"Did you go hungry that evening?" I had enquired.

"Yes, but that was fine. After all, even the monkeys in Vrindavana must have been pious souls. Otherwise, they couldn't be born here in the land of Krishna. I couldn't get angry with them. And in any case, fasting in Vrindavana can only be good."

Typical fatalism or what?