Monkey business in the corridors of power : The Tribune India

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Monkey business in the corridors of power

Monkey business in the corridors of power

Photo for representation. File photo



Shashi Uban Tripathi

DURING the recent G20 summit, huge cutouts of langurs were strategically placed across New Delhi to keep Rhesus monkeys away from designated venues.

New Delhi, especially Raisina Hill, is infested with simians. It's not their fault. This used to be their habitat in the forested Raisina village before we humans encroached upon it. Today, monkeys have the run of the North and South Blocks, which house the ministries of Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs. Once, as I stepped out of my office in South Block, I saw a monkey taking a stroll in the corridors of power. ‘Arre, bhago,’ I yelled. When a security guard showed up, I asked him where the monkey had come from. ‘From Gate No. 10, madam,’ he said with a straight face. This is the designated gate from which foreign diplomats enter to meet officials in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Things got so bad that the MEA had to employ a monkey-catcher. Soon, it was found that the wily gentleman caught the monkeys, took them away and let them loose in a clearing near Raisina so that they came back in the morning, none the worse for the little outing.

Dismissing the monkey-catcher, the ministry tried another experiment. It hired a langur to frighten the monkeys. His name was Mangat Ram. He did a better job and was soon ‘confirmed in service’. One evening, as I wound things up for the day and stood at the top of the red-carpeted stairway, I saw Mangat Ram lumbering. I beat a hasty retreat towards the lift, in no mood to socialise with a relative many millennia removed.

On another occasion, as I drove into South Block, I saw a troop of monkeys ranged all along the three sides of a parapet covering the entry gate. They were angry and baring their teeth. Soon, the reason became apparent. A little baby monkey had fallen down and the guards were playing with it. I told them to pick it up and gently put it 50 yards away. As soon as they did that, the troop swooped down, picked up the infant and scuttled away.

Another encounter of a similarly weird kind happened when we lived in one of the government bungalows on Rajesh Pilot Marg, opposite Lodhi Garden. Our cook was busy making chapatis for lunch and stacking them in a wicker basket to keep them warm. It was mechanical work and she was lost in her thoughts, all the while kneading, rolling and browning the rotis. When she thought she had made enough for the family, she looked inside the basket and found, to her horror, that it was empty. On the window sill sat a monkey relishing the fresh, warm rotis! The municipal authorities came and drove it away, and unlike its South Block cousins, it never came back.

As for Mangat Ram, the last I heard was that he was still ‘on the rolls’ of the MEA support staff, getting a handsome salary!

#G20


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