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Monkey Menace in Vrindavan

Monkey Menace in Vrindavan
Meghna 'Phoenix' Ghatak
A painting of a monkey in Vrindavan
Vrindavan is the ancient and holy city of Lord krishna, where this naughty god spent his childhood.  Two thousand years later, the city still reverberates with his naughtiness in the form of anecdotes and monkeys.  While Uttar Pradesh is famous for its monkey menace, Vrindavan nestled in the municipality of Mathura, is the seat of it.  Painted notices warn the visitors and devotees of Lord krishna of monkeys snatching mobile phones, wallets, purses and also interestingly,  sun and vision glasses. Every where educated visitors refuse to pay heed to these warnings, they are replaced by verbal ones from shopkeepers,  rickshaw drivers, guides and every other bystanders.  
A notice warning
I had been at a very young age, bestowed with the magnifying power of vision correction glasses starting from minus 2.5 Dioptre and saturating at minus 6.75 and minus 5 Dioptre in respective eyes.  Hence I was used to the nuances of my standard dimension (SD) versus higher dimension (hd) periphery without versus with glasses the greater part of my active life. This was a genetic defect since I had inherited it from almost every member of my extended family.  I have grown up watching my grandparents forgetting about the whereabouts of their respective glasses and snatching each other's bifocals off their partners' noses or making their grandchildren play detectives to dig them up from amidst the sofa cushions, seats; from underneath pillows and bedsheets; kitchen and even at times, bathroom countertops.  My mother had reportedly once searched her entire living quarters for the same, wearing them on her chest and on one occasion, in her hair and discovering the glasses upon finding her reflection in the mirror. No wonder, rib tickling anecdotes featuring these vision support systems are told and retold for decades at every family gatherings. 
Needless to say,  our jaunts through the ancient city was punctured occasionally with people warning us about the said monkey menace and we ignored them.  My mother and me held on to our glasses with one hand and our purses in the other and were constantly on the look out. Some people taunted us by pointing at the monkeys prowling overhead and our gaze would fearfully follow them dangling from flags, young ones holding on to their mother's bodies for dear life. A sudden commotion would erupt and they would screech and scoot from one building to another,  loosening the ties of the decorations that fell on passersby.  
Heart pounding,  pushing aside hands attempting to brand religious symbols on our facades with sandalwood paste stamps in exchange for money, scanning the walls for the notorities,  we removed our slippers outside the famed Banke Bihari temple and rushing inside with the ongoing crowd. Inside were only evolved monkeys, thrusting their pelvis, elbows and shoulders onto the inundation of worshippers,  for a proper glimpse of the idol and to offer flowers and sweets to any pandit who simply threw them away at the Lord's feet and instructed the crowd to keep pushing towards the exit. Inside, we were convinced that the only intermittent danger of theft we needed to address was the surrounding populace.   Between multiple curtain fall and rise to prevent the worshippers from losing their minds gaping at the idol of Lord Banke Bihari, my mother and me were shoved from line to line, groped at, hit on sensitive body parts and hurled insults at. When the crowd carried us to the exit, with the policemen's instructions,  our minds were filled with the image of the magnificent idol, the ordeal we just underwent, the offerings we were left with and the location of our slippers.  
It was at this moment, under an overcast sky, when a monkey swept down on my left shoulder,  causing me to crane my neck in that direction and took off with my glasses from my right shoulder.  I was baffled and dumbfounded by the technique and could only raise an alarm post a few seconds. Half blind now,  I garnered enough commotion around me with my nervous fidgeting and my mother shrieking at a monkey seated calmly above us,  to get a proper solution. A man appeared from nowhere and proposed that if u throw a Fruity (a packaged fruit drink) at it, it will drop the glasses in exchange for the drink.  I fumbled around the shops out of the temple complex, squinting to convert my present standard definition vision into high definition in search for Fruity. My mother along with the crowd was staring helplessly at the monkey munching at my vision support system.  
When I managed to buy the solution,  I squinted my way back to my mother and handed her the packaged drink,  who in turn handed it over to the man. The man masterfully hurled the Fruity at the monkey and almost like magic, it released the glasses to catch the drink.  My mother picked up the mangled remains of the glasses and tried to dust and twist it enough to restore it to its previous shape, fit for use. The man told us to remove our glasses for the time we were in and around the tourist spots in vrindavan,  the city of tulsi (Holy Basil) forest.  
I squinted the entire day,  holding and inspecting eateries,  merchandise at close proximity before buying.  When we visited Nidhivan, the woods where Lord Krishna reportedly still visits every night,  we had to ask a newly appointed guide's permission to put our glasses on and off and escort us onto the right direction. 
Tales of the Lord's mischief resonates throughout the entire city and is sung praises of in devotional literature and songs.  I think someone should also sing the praises of the glutinous yet harmless mischief done by these monkeys who are only following the tradition of their Lord Krishna.  After all, India is a land seeped in tradition, shouldn't someone keep them alive, if not the people, why not the monkeys.  


  1. I'm so sorry that you had to go through all those troubles. I've never been to Vrindavan -- even though I'm an Indian -- but monkeys are famous for their mischievous character, so I imagine them doing just about everything that you mentioned. When I went to Uluwatu in Bali, there were guides at the entrance who insisted that we should hire them for guidance around the temple and protection from the very naughty monkeys.

    On a different note, groping is never okay. It hurts my heart to read that you were groped at a place of worship. I mean if people can't control their hands even in a temple (or any place of worship) then what can be expected of them anywhere ��

    1. Groping is a common problem girls go through in the streets every where. I'm elated that you seldom had to face that. Thank you for your feedback though, it means a lot to us
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