Harishankar and I arrived at Chail Palace sometime in the afternoon in a taxi ride that my stomach certainly did not appreciate. At first glance, the palace was nothing short of spectacular. The vintage look, the antique furniture along with the original belongings of the Maharaja made me feel as though i had been transported in time and was about to meet the despot himself!! But as i walked outside I began to get the feeling that though legally this land belonged to the Himachal Pradesh government,there was more to it. The King was very much there. Only he had changed his form. There were monkeys all over the place. While everyone did notice them, any careful observer could make the fairly plausible conclusion that the monkeys were the real residents of the palace. Yes, There were the honeymooning couple on the roof over to the right, another few sunbathing after a hard day …or perhaps that is what they did during that time of the day. The youngsters jumping from lamppost to lamppost. OH! how could I have been so blind!! We were in a forest after all.
I chuckled to myself wondering how many of the other guests had figured out what they were getting themselves into.
Now Hari loves photography!! He’d been armed with a tripod and 2 lenses for the trip. Unfortunately for me i had been reduced to the position of a watchman by Hari as he raced to click a few masterpieces. However, what we didn’t know is that we were being watched. As soon as we had our backs turned a monkey emerged from the bushes to claim his prize. As he walked towards the lens i decided that i needed to act. Being mauled to death by a monkey for some reason had more appeal than being a lectured on equipment safety and trust. So begun a sequence of events which will forever be embedded in my memory for the remainder of my life. I began with reaching out for the nearest sturdy stick that i could find and gave my fiercest growl. The monkey was taken aback as he didn’t expect anyone to challenge his authority…least of all a non-native. However my growl while stunning the monkey didn’t do the job of scaring him away. So i gave another growl to send him packing.
Unfortunately for me the reaction that i had intended did not take place. Instead i saw nature begin to unfold one of those showdowns that take place ever so often in the forest. The monkey king was clearly angry!! Some people say its instinct but he looked just plain pissed to me. I had just challenged his authority and he had to show not just me, but everyone around just who was boss. The Monkey King slowly began to move towards me!! I saw a guest run inside the palace and there were hushed whispers all around. In what was a very tense moment Hari leans over and tells me that i shouldn’t be going around provoking monkeys. Damn you Hari! Damn your lenses!! Let the king have his tribute…no, its too late for that. He’ll probably just take my head instead.
The Monkey King stood there baring his teeth for the whole world to see. His face bore a scar across his left eye. He’d done this before! A battle hardened monkey ready to pounce on you..what would you do? I decided that i’d hold my ground rather than …well,there wasn’t anything else i could do. I positioned my legs to show that i was ready for a fight. I waved the stick slightly telling the monkey that i had every intention to dispatch him into the next world so he can bring on whatever he had. I was fortunate that i was wearing sunglasses because had he looked right into my eyes he would have seen that i was shitting bricks.
After what felt like an eternity the monkey king let himself get distracted by a car that had just entered the compound. He moved away and went towards the car.I heaved a sigh of relief!! Things began to become normal again and I backed away not wishing to infuriate as i had no intention of committing regicide. One guest even began calling the monkey “Don Saab” and explaining to his Majesty how he did not wish to “disrespect” him.
I was just happy that the incident was over. The title Don was too petty for this warrior that i encountered. He had the Bravery to stand up and defend his honour and his turf. Man’s intrusion into forest lands has led to plenty of situations like this which did not have a happy ending. Its time we humans took the environment into consideration before we encroach on lands that have other inhabitants. Deforestation,mining activities, expanding urbanisation,etc these are all issues that have an effect on the wildlife in India.
That was a nice blog George… A very serious and valid thought brought up from a funny incident… Waiting for more..
Thanks Aswin.Good to know you liked it!!