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  Opinion   Columnists  13 Apr 2024  Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | My low-budget urban wildlife adventures

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | My low-budget urban wildlife adventures

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a humour writer, novelist, columnist and screenwriter
Published : Apr 14, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Monkey Business and Serpentine Surprises: A Humorous Tale from Adyar

A monkey caught in the act, adding a touch of humor to unexpected wildlife encounters in Adyar. (Image: Krishna Shastri Devulapalli)
 A monkey caught in the act, adding a touch of humor to unexpected wildlife encounters in Adyar. (Image: Krishna Shastri Devulapalli)

In my schooldays, we had this teacher who possibly had the most novel excuse for corporal punishment, which he dispensed with that most innovative disciplinary implement — the bedrock of the Indian education system of the ’70s — two wooden scales held together.

“You see,” he would say, as he administered the staccato beatings to our drill-clad bottoms, “I am a poor man and cannot buy crackers for Deepavali. The sound of these scales and your yelps of joy are the closest thing I have to festivities.”

As a writer with limited resources, like our long-dead teacher, I, too, have found ways to enjoy things on a low-to-no-budget. (Albeit without harming any living being.) Like wildlife sightings, for instance, without leaving our apartment complex.

Last week, early in the morning, as I was about to open the door to my terrace, I saw the gentleman in the picture (clicked by me with a trembling hand) having an intimate moment with himself. It is common knowledge that monkeys are among the most casual and prolific practitioners of auto-eroticism, and don’t particularly care that there might be a few of us out there who prefer a more conservative approach to such matters.

In the interests of protecting the delicate sentiments of everyone at home, I bravely had all the doors closed on a war footing. That our cook and the neighbour’s driver had to do it was because I had an important phone call to attend to at the same time. With entry points to our home hermetically sealed, we thought it would be prudent to scare the monkey away before he motivated himself for another bout of ardent self-love. And this we did by jumping up and down, singing a medley of L.R. Eswari’s old hits.

Completely unimpressed, but much to our relief, after a bit, the bored fellow sauntered off on his own.

Reassuring the womenfolk of the house that there was nothing to be scared of, a few minutes later, I went into our bedroom. To find lying, on my side of the bed, looking perfectly at home, my libidinous simian acquaintance. Evidently he’d managed to squeeze in through an open window. When I screamed spontaneously (in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice this time), he stopped for a second from the activity at hand, which, thankfully now, was taking a large swig out of my bottle of Gelusil. He then rolled his eyes at me and proceeded to finish the rest of the bottle. If drinking antacids is some kind of primate-world equivalent of the post-coital smoke, I must have missed that episode on Animal Planet.

Five minutes later, from under the safety of my work desk at the other end of the house, where I was taking another important phone call, I was informed by the security guy, the gardener, and my wife that the coast was clear.

To anyone living in Adyar or thereabouts, if you see a monkey with chalky pink stains on his chest fur, please report him for exhibitionism combined with pharmaceutical terrorism.

A few days later, as I was recovering from the excitement of being in such close proximity to a lubricious langur with gastric issues, apparently, it was the turn of reptiles.

‘Saaar,’ came our Watchman Number One’s soprano over the intercom. ‘Big pambu in the basement, saar, come immediately!’

I looked at my wife. I do that when anything requiring peril and derring-do are involved. She said, ‘Not this one, pal. This one’s on you.’

The intercom rang again.

‘It’s a King Cobra, saaar!’ It was Watchman Number Two.

Ten minutes later, I was in the basement. I would have gone earlier had it not been for an important overseas business call that turned out to be a wrong number. By this time, the snake catcher had arrived, and had caught the King Cobra. I was surprised to find that all he was holding was a smallish, twitchy plastic cover.

‘King Cobras are that small?’ I asked the gentleman.

‘What King Cobra, sir?’ said the man, laughing. ‘This is just a harmless old grass snake.’

I gave Watchman Number Two a look.

‘How did you figure it was a King Cobra?’ I asked him.

‘It let out a loud hiss, saar, I swear,’ he said. ‘Two or three times.’

A small silence followed. After which Watchman Number One spoke.

‘That was me, saar,’ he said, scratching the back of his head, eyes lowered. ‘Seeing the pambu, I got scared and spontaneously...’

He grinned sheepishly and made hand and eye gestures worthy of a trained classical dancer which left one in no doubt about the origin of the serial hisses.

‘I’m afraid I can’t help you,’ I said. ‘Because the monkey drank my Gelusil.’

Tags: monkeys, snakes, urban wildlife