Near the temples by the holy lake is a small courtyard garden area. One morning my husband saw it when it was full of monkeys, firstly all competing and jostling for positions, then settling down in their spots on the building or in the tree.
Another morning at the same place he saw just a few adults with lots and lots of baby monkeys, like a crèche, the baby monkeys swinging on the wires, doing somersaults and apparently having a great time.
I went back with him a few mornings later, no crèche but the two nearby trees were full of monkeys. A man warned us not to stand underneath, ‘They may go to the toilet,’ he said. ‘This is India, everything is out in the open.’
He was from Pushkar but lives in France and runs an Indian restaurant. Indian restaurants are much less common in France and Germany than the UK because of the language barrier. Many Indian people can speak English, which is why there are lots of Indian people in Canada, the US and the UK, and hence we are also extremely fortunate to have so many Indian restaurants and take aways that even a small town will have at least one.
There was a small shrine in the courtyard garden/monkey crèche; the man said he does pooja and leaves offerings to honour his father but the monkeys destroy it, ‘I don’t mind,’ he said. ‘This used to be all jungle, they were here first.’
There are two types of monkey in Pushkar, the black faced ones with the long tails, and the more stocky, shorter tailed red faced ones.
Both are found out and about in the town, and by the lake where they are fed along with the cows, birds and dogs.
Monkeys seem to enjoy making noise, one day at the lake I watched a succession of monkeys running along the ghats, each one leaping up to slam against a half open metal door that banged loudly shut before springing open ready for the next monkey to do the same, apparently just for fun.
At the guesthouse the arrival of monkeys is announced by the sound of them jumping heavily across corrugated metal roofs, a sound like firecrackers or thunder.
The black faced monkeys are welcome at the guesthouse, and do not cause any trouble, generally staying in the trees and coming down onto the flat roofs to be fed puri or left over chapatis from the restaurant. ‘They are family friends.’ Ganesh from the guesthouse told us.
Both types of monkeys sometimes go up and down the stairs to the rooftop and garden like guests, but the red faced monkeys are braver and bound unafraid into the area right outside the rooms. The red faced monkeys are disliked by the staff, who chase them with sticks. Ganesh told me that these monkeys can be aggressive to humans, ‘make trouble’ for the black faced monkeys, and fight badly amongst themselves.
When I was sitting outside typing, Ganesh came to stand beside me with a stick. ‘I come to protect you.’ ‘Be careful, they come, you move,’ Ganesh calls the red faced monkeys ‘Donald Trump’ because they are always fighting. The other, nice monkeys he calls ‘Barack Obama.’
In the interest of balance, I should say that Aloo Baba (see previous post), who lives in the desert and has planted lots of trees over the years, prefers the red faced monkeys, as he says the black faced monkeys jump around in the trees too much and break the branches.
In December we go back to Hampi, where there are monkeys everywhere in the town and in the temples. People feed them bananas and coconut and except for them coming into your room and taking things that they think might be food, they are not scary.
Thank you very much for reading