It was the second time I was following this same trail. Starting from Dehene village to Ajoba hills. And it was the second time I paused at Valmiki Ashram, and did not continue on the trail any further.
I was looking out for monkeys but there were none to be found. I distinctly remembered seeing many of those skipping around, when I was there last time, on the eve of Mahashivratri. I wondered what would have happened to those bunch of monkeys. My speculations were put to rest by a resident, who had a very strong view that the monkeys will be arriving at any moment then, as their nap time must be over, which comfortably coincided with our lunch time. Monkeys!!
I remembered seeing a bunch of dogs too. And few cows munching happily, staring into abyss like they always do, speculating the meaning of life and universe. I mentioned this and looked inquisitively at the residents. They shrugged and said they don’t remember seeing any such combination around. Although monkeys will be arriving soon, they reassured. I wondered where the dogs must have been. They never seem to miss lunch time.
We feasted on rice chapatis, some saag, and daal, which was simple yet sumptuous. I tried to remember when was the last time I enjoyed my food so much. I had to break from my hyper-concentration, as I could not remember, and MONKEYS HAD STARTED ARRIVING.
At first they came one at a time, then in pairs, then in rowdy groups of threes and fours. After a couple of dozen settled themselves around like sentinels, the mother monkeys with babies stuck at their bellies started coming in. Social order – All of us basically, before some mutant gene triggered evolution.
I stood there looking at those sober, super boring monkeys. They just sat on the branches without any purpose. What do you call monkeys who have no purpose in life, not even when it is lunch time? I thought that they might still be in post-pre-afternoon-nap trance. So I decided to give them benefit of doubt.
After a while those purpose-less creatures stopped pouring in. A few small monkeys from the rowdy group starting taking short jumps across branches. Here we go, I said. But then they again settled lazily on a new branch. As if trying to judge which was a better branch for a session of uninterrupted purposeless sitting.
A few others came down the tree, drank some water, and went back. A group of detectives were seen inspecting the garbage area. Trying to find easy meal. I reflected on the good old days in Banaras, when they used to barge in your house, open fridge, take as many things as their arms could manage, and then, while sprinting away, they gave you this look which seemed to say “Go on. Keep the rest. No need to thank me”.
The air around me was full with tiny droplets of water. The blanket of clouds had taken over the sky. The birds had stopped singing. The plateau beamed in anticipation of rain. I sat there staring into abyss, not wishing for anything, perfectly content. I felt like one of those monkeys.