They come in groups close to a dozen- hefty alpha males with bright pink posterior, wary females clutching thin, naughty babies to their chests. They swing dangerously on electric cables, break branches in their zeal to reach an unknown destination and break flower pots placed decorously on terraces. Most people call them a menace, but we will call them monkeys!
Has there been a sudden surge in their visits to your urban colonies lately? Have you wondered why? Well, monkeys are not mosquitoes. They don’t just happen. They are most likely chased away from their native places primarily due to habitat destruction for some construction activity. Every urban area boasts of certain pockets of tree cover where these poor animals can find shelter. But, if that area is taken over by a builder or a contractor, then they have hardly any choice but to move away- most likely ‘intrude’ into human colonies. While many of us have no patience for them and try to shoo them away with cruelest of methods, these animals are not intruders but victims. Victims of civilization! If this native populace was human, the government would provide them a compensation or alternate homes. But, in case of monkeys, the best policy adopted is to chase them away. Without understanding their plight- where would they go, what would they feed on, how will their little ones survive, how will they be able to withstand the extremity of nature without trees for protection, who will feed them (they need a good amount of nutrition too, in case you didn’t know), etc.…
If they were stray dogs, animal activists would show kindness and feed them. If they were cows, everybody might show concern and spare a chapati for them. But they are monkeys- a menace! They steal (really?), they damage, they scare. And so, they must be driven away. In some places, in order to facilitate human beings, the forest officials or local administrations have come up with a ‘unique’ idea of placing cut-outs of languor- their sworn enemies- and even play their voice over loudspeaker. My God! What is expected from such a move? They will move to cause ‘menace’ in some other locality. This is certainly not a permanent solution to the problem. Then what? Do nagar nigams ought to engage monkey catchers? Well, these displaced monkeys should be provided with compensatory habitat. It is their due! They don’t have a voice to complain but humans must show some humanity. Look at the way they are forced to put their lives in risk when they cross a road by hanging onto electric wires. In summers these wires and cables must be burning hot. When they are shooed away with lathis, stones and even crackers, it must hurt.
They are facing the brunt of modern-day development. See the way they are forced to sleep on hot tin shades (in case they are on a height) and eat just about anything- from toxic leaves to bitter roots. If your favourite plant is missing from the pot which has been raided by the monkeys, it is most likely they have eaten it. You curse them and wish them to hell, but do you spare a thought to the fact whether the plant was edible or not? The adults may be wise but the malnourished babies eat everything because their weak mothers may not have enough milk to suckle them. You know, just for a moment, try to understand the life they are being forced into. They don’t enjoy everyday conflicts with you just like you don’t. Isn’t it an irony that in a land where Lord Ram is worshipped as the presiding deity and cases are fought in courts till his Janmabhoomi is ‘freed’, his beloved monkey (an embodiment of Lord Hanuman) is treated with such apathy? High time we start taking them and their existence seriously!