Monkey business in India…

“Monkeys” we all squealed in unison the first time we saw monkeys in India. “Oh they’re soooo cute” said one son. “Can we play with them?” begged the other. “Let’s just see” smiled a bemused Rahul.

Ah monkeys…they look so cute, cuddly and fun. However they can be quite the opposite as you will see from our “monkey business” in India.

It is hard to avoid monkeys in India. Every trip, no matter the state, we always see monkeys. Over the years we have had some classic encounters with them. On a trip to Thiruvannamalai my son was sitting in the temple watching some monkeys frolic from a safe distance. Suddenly a monkey ran over and tried to pull down his pants. My son leapt up in shock and the monkey ran off. “”Maybe he was thought there was a banana in there” commented my other son innocently. We all had a good chuckle.

On a trip to Puttaparthi we saw a group of monkeys grab an unsuspecting lady’s shopping bag. They all climbed up a tree where they started to investigate its contents. BANG down came the powder, BANG down came the toothpaste, CLANG down came the stainless steel bowl. However when they found the food they began to devour it with glee. The poor lady could do nothing but watch in dismay. This little episode gave us a healthy respect for monkeys and to be on the look out for them.

Years ago Padma and I got held up in our room by an old scab faced monkey looking for food. Luckily Rahul turned up in the nick of time and distracted him by throwing a banana.

Last year as Padma and I were descending from Chamundi Hill in Mysore I spied a group of monkeys. I was carrying a small plastic bag of flowers for our car dashboard shrine. Suddenly the big male monkey made a grab for my bag. I screamed and ran back up the stairs till I was around a corner. I then squashed the flowers into my small shoulder bag and collected myself. Slowly I turned and walked back down the stairs. There was the big monkey again but because I had no plastic bag this time he ignored me as I passed. Phew…the dashboard flowers were a little flattened but still smelt divine.

Yes monkeys are sweet, they are cheeky and we love them. However take my advice and “watch the monkey” as he may be cute but he is also looking to separate you from your lunch!

Please sound horn…

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Today Padma and I had another day in the car travelling between Fort Cochin and Salem. For the uninitiated your first time travelling on Indian roads will be like something out of your worst nightmare! Buses and trucks careening towards you at breakneck speed. Auto-rickshaws doing a u-turn straight in front of an oncoming bus. Goats nibbling on the side of the road and then suddenly making a break for the other side of the road just as you are passing. All of these and more will you too experience when you travel the great Indian roads.

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The only way to survive the Indian roads is to learn who is boss. In my experience the order of importance is as follows:
1. Cows ~ they have full right of way and right of passage. They even have the right to sit wherever they like even if it is in the middle of a three lane highway.
2. Buses ~ if you don’t see them coming their elaborate horns will let you know quick smart. Never get in the way of a bus or you will surely end up just like a chapatti.
3. Trucks ~ most drivers are on a deadline and nothing will stop them getting to their destination as soon as they can.
4. Cars ~ if you see a truck and two buses all heading towards you don’t slow down, keep driving but just make sure you’re driving off on the side of the road!
5. Motorbikes ~ usually keep to the side of the road so as not to be squashed by a wayward bus.
6. Auto-rickshaws ~ much slower but still out in force on the major highways.
7. Push bikes ~ ride at your own peril!

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Something I love about Indian roads is the use of the horn. Most trucks have painted on the back a sign which says “USE HORN PLEASE”…In the west we can’t believe you would want anyone to honk you in the car as it is usually meant as a sign of aggression. However in India the liberal use of the car horn is generally used as a gentle reminder that “I am going to pass you now so please don’t change lanes!” I wish everyone listened to that message as way too often just as you want to pass a truck he wants to pass someone else and pulls out into your lane with no indication!

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Ah…the joys of Indian travel…I like to call it co-ordinated chaos…However a day trip in the car does have its rewards. There is a slice of Indian daily life at every turn, great coffee from the roadside cafes, smiles and waves from those you pass and a constant stream of colour, culture and life on the move.

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Road signs that mean something…

THE FOLLOWING ROAD SIGNS WERE COPIED DOWN DURING A TRIP FROM BANGALORE TO PONDICHERRY IN JANUARY THIS YEAR… Fast drive could be LAST drive Lane discipline gives you long life Road sense is courteous and safe Life is short don’t make it … Continue reading