Namaste – I’m glad to be with you again. As you may know from my few Facebook postings, I’ve been in India for three and a half weeks. I have lots of stories to tell. I would have told them sooner, but 1.) Internet connection was not always the best, and 2.) I was doing and seeing so much that I could not share my adventures in complete sentences. For the next few posts, I’ll share stories and hope you find them as amusing as I do. Some stories are funnier after the fact than they were at the time. Allow me to set the stage.
Pench National Park
Pench National Park (http://www.penchnationalpark.com) is located in Madhya Pradesh, India. It’s named after the Pench River flowing through its 758 square kilometer ecosystem.
Project Tiger (http://projecttiger.nic.in) began in 1973 after a 1972 census estimated the Bengal Tiger population had fallen to 1800 individuals. Pench National Park is one of several Tiger Reserves in India.
And the Monkeys?
May I introduce the Common Langur Monkey (Semnopithecus entellus)?
This monkey is very tall. Sitting down, he is as tall as my hip. I met one of his cousins up close and personal. He was sitting about three feet away from me – in front of the lavatory door.
Let me explain. We stayed at Baghvan, a Taj Safari Lodge, (http://www.tajhotels.com/Luxury/Taj-Safaris/Baghvan-Pench-National-Park/Overview.html) It is a delightful property with a wonderful staff and delicious food. It also has a few quirks. Baghvan is adjacent to Pench National Park, and animals are notoriously bad about noticing boundary lines.
Guests have individual bungalows. This is the exterior of our second bungalow.
Notice the outer door. From the inside, it looks like this.
The door on the left is the entry door. It opens to the exterior porch. Notice the door on the right. There is a handle and under the handle is a sliding bolt. Every door has a bolt on both the inside and the outside. Can you guess why there are bolts? If you open the door on the right, you find yourself in a connecting area of about four feet. Outside, on your right you will see a romantic outside shower.
I never used the outside shower. You will soon know why.
On the left of the photo is the edge of the combination lavatory, shower, and dressing area. To the right is the entrance back into the air-conditioned sleeping area. Remember the sliding locks? When you leave an area, you lock the door. When you enter an area, you lock the door. Hmmmm. Why do you suppose that is?
That first hot afternoon, the Handsome Bloke and I napped under the AC unit. Eventually, I needed to access the lavatory. I opened the door. Guess who was sitting in front of the exterior lavatory door?
Absolutely the biggest, closest monkey I’ve ever seen. I didn’t mind his height so much as his proximity. My jaw dropped. I closed the door. I decided that I would never go to the bathroom so long as we stayed at Baghvan – in fact, I was not sure I would ever leave the sleeping area. I began to make shrieking sounds.
The Handsome Bloke asked what my problem was. “Mmmmm—ooonnn—kiiiiiiii,” I stammered in a high-pitched voice.
“Where else would they be?”
“Outside in front of the lavatory.”
Oh? All he could say was, “Oh”?
“I’ll chase it away.”
“NO! Don’t open the door! Call someone!!”
Handsome Bloke shrugged. Called reception: “We have a monkey problem.”
“Okay, we’ll send some guys. Is the door unlocked?”
“Well, you have to unlock the door, or we can’t come in.”
Shrieking woman to Handsome Bloke: “What door is locked?”
Handsome Bloke: “I thought if I locked the outer door beyond the bedroom door, it would keep us safe from the monkeys.”
“Not working out too well.”
“It’s fine. I’ll just open this door on the right, go to the outer door, slide the bolt, and come back.”
Shrieking woman jumps up and down. “No no no no no!!!. Don’t open this door!”
Exasperated Handsome Bloke. “There’s no other way to get to the outer door. Find something we can bang on to distract them.”
There is a rule in life. You never have a gong when you need one.
We did not have a gong to strike fear into monkey nerves. We had an ice bucket with tongs.
BANG! BANG! BANG! SHOUT! SHOUT! SHOUT! RATTLE THE DOOR
Handsome Bloke slithers out, pulls the bolt, scoots back.
Hyperventilating women: “I can’t,” *gasp,* “believe you did that.”
Handsome Bloke: “I’m blind. It’s not like I can see the monkey.”
Staff arrived, shooed the monkeys, and guided hysterical woman to a bungalow close to reception. “Don’t worry. Just call and we’ll escort you.”
Gasp, hiccup. “OK”
Handsome Bloke. “I’m going for a smoke.”
Facts about the Common Langur
- They are happy and inquisitive.
- They live in all habitats, including cities and temples.
- They like to eat leaves, flowers, and berries.
- They give the alarm when predators, especially tigers, are in the area.
- Hindus regard Common Langurs as the Monkey God Hanuman. They are protected.
By the time we left Baghvan I was rather fond of the Common Langur monkey – and I always looked both ways when walking between the sleeping area and lavatory.
(Unattributed Photos by Author. All Rights Reserved.)
Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.
Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.