Rajesh, the Monkey Temple and get me out of here FAST!! – Delhi.

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“That’s a bloody monkey!”
I stop dead in my tracks as it turns towards my voice, its beady little eyes stare me down and I see its fingers working away at a nut or something from the floor. I have heard all about the street monkeys here I had not planned to see one today especially after walking out of a luxury air-conditioned five star hotel, it wasn’t even on my mind! The monkey is huge, its body curled over the food it is fiercely protecting.

I see Rajesh stop in his tracks too and he turns to me, uttering his truest words of the day, “They are safe, so long as you don’t go too close.”
Close? Stuff that, I reckon this creature isn’t even safe from a distance. God only knows the infections it carries, Yellow Fever, Falciparum, Malaria, I could go on! I have heard about these malevolent little bastards biting people, not to mention, stealing food and even cigarettes! Just one tiny vicious bite and you could be struck down by a cocktail of evil!
We gingerly walk past the primate and turn left into an alleyway as Rajesh explains the city is famous for its wild street monkeys. As he is speaking I hear this scrabbling above my head, it’s a loud raking sound on the corrugated iron roofs and suddenly more monkeys appear. They are everywhere I look, a whole troop of them sitting on roof tops, in the road, on the bonnets of cars, swinging from the telegraph poles their dark eyes all fixed on us as they swing past in their hunt for food. I don’t know what to do so I just stand there, they are known for their mad tempers and I don’t want to get bitten!

“Want to see the monkey temple, sir?”
I had seen it, encouraged to go I had asked a man to escort me the previous day. I had been shocked to hear these street monkeys have their own temple but they bloody do! They have taken over the ruins of an old temple and they all live there, thriving on tourists’ food offerings and their scavenged food from the streets of Delhi. I thought they would be seen as pests but they are worshiped here, these evil looking little disease carrying, ill tempered, bite giving blighters have people worshipping, feeding and loving them as Gods!
Despite the depth of love for these monkeys, I had been instantly shocked by the scene outside the temple gates. Rather than ‘Godly’ it was a hellish mix of stray rabid dogs, lepers, handicapped beggars all sadly missing limbs sitting in filthy rags begging desperately for cash. It was horrendous there, street children looked like feral animals, all bone, dirt covered with wild hair, there was a vile odour in the air, a potent combination of faeces, urine, garbage, and lord knows what else. As I had waved mosquitoes away I tried to cover my mouth and lower my eyes, it was terrible there, a truly nasty sight. What kind of life was this, are those people truly living or just existing? They have nowhere to run, no place to be, no one to love them, it was such a soul destroying and disgusting thing to witness I was forced to to escape. I truly couldn’t be there, the rancid scene, the putrid stench too horrid for words, I know this place will be burnt into my memory forever.

I know people say how important it is to experience how others live, to see it first hand and it is true that we should know about the plight of others less fortunate than ourselves, however, in spite of all this I feel no regret getting out of there, I had felt incredibly blessed and grateful to be able to return to the comfort of my hotel.
I think about all this as Rajesh leads me confidently through the monkeys as they take over the street.
“They are looking for food, they won’t attack you.”
I sincerely want to believe him as we continue walking down the next side street slowly leaving them behind us. Suddenly he stops and throws his arms up in exclamation;
“It is here!”
“What is?”
“The vegetarian restaurant.”
“You must be joking mate. Here? It can’t be here!”
I stare at him as Rajesh gestures towards a door barely wide enough for a mouse to squeeze through. There are no signs and the location is still highly dubious. I glance to my left and see three beggars standing outside along with an elderly lady in a dirty pink sari holding a child barely older than two years. They are pleading for money. The old woman is clutching her child motioning to her mouth and looking directly into my eyes as if to say – help me feed her.
It is a very powerful picture and I instantly think of Bong, if she were starving and desperate. I find myself reaching into my pocket yet again. I have had enough of this outing already, the stench, the walking down filthy roads with an Indian stranger, the heart wrenching devastation of the poor begging for my help. I just wanted to go for a nice meal that was all! Now all I want is to go home, I’m tired, feeling slightly moody and just exhausted after being in this all-consuming city. I turn on my heels and shout to Rajesh.
“Right, I’m off.”
“I will walk you back to your hotel, sir.”
“Why would you want to waste your day off walking the streets with an English tourist you do not even know?”
His over enthusiasm is beginning to annoy me. It makes little or no sense to a westerner who is familiar with being ignored over and over again on the streets of London, Paris and Moscow and, well the whole of Europe really! He just grins at me again and I know he is taking me for a ride somehow I am just not sure how yet. However as he falls into step with me we find ourselves dodging monkeys, him smiling, me running, and as I became more lost he points us in the right direction. Of course as we began to chat again his interest in me begins to make a lot more sense.
“You know, I am student. I have no money for book.”
Here we go. “Ah, it must be terrible. Surely you need books to study.”
“Yes, sir, I need but I don’t have.”

I think to myself that if it is indeed the case then it is terribly sad, but what is worse is that he is not the only one facing the same predicament in this country. It doesn’t make it right but I can see why they try devious ways to make money from tourists.
“Rajesh, I am sorry I can’t help you. If you have been doing all this for money, well, I will be disappointing you.”
I wanted to test this friendship, I had said I didn’t want help, I had only let him walk with me to chat and help his English. Instantly he is gone! No more walking, no more friendship, he realizes I am not going to donate to his ‘book fund’ (if he was telling the truth about that), so he is gone! I am alone once again. Rajesh went as fast as he came and now I am left to walk in circles trying to find my elusive Metropolitan hotel, which turns out to be just a kilometre away!

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