Monkeys started it!

21 11 2007

Monkeys are making New Delhi the jewel of their Indian crown. Someone should’ve listened to Owen Wilson. The actor got to know monkeys better than he’d wished when he was filming “Darjeeling Limited.” In the middle of a movie promotion interview he blurted that monkeys acted like they wanted to take our (human) place.

Not since Cosmo Kramer fought the chimp in that old Seinfeld episode has anyone dared to call the monkey by its name: Usurper. The time of being “friendly” cousins is over. Now monkeys are moving in on New Delhi’s most important monuments. They scorn the city’s slums and have taken possession, in gangs, of the fanciest addresses in town.

The New York Times (11/14/07) reports that New Delhi’s Deputy Mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, was driven over the side of his own balcony by a gang of monkeys. Those monkeys killed him while he was just trying to read the paper. Unlike their predecessors, the British Raj, the monkeys seem bent on direct rule in New Delhi and then, why not, beyond.

They may be inspired by the current human trend of totalitarian rule. The human rulers of the U.S., Russia and Venezuela are in mid-attempt to make themselves lifetime rulers. The oblique authoritarianism that democracies allow is no longer enough to satisfy them. Why would monkeys be different?

New Delhi politicians are frightened and have resorted to hiring “private monkey catchers” who can only work through the mercenary services of bigger monkeys called langurs. At least one pending lawsuit accuses the city of failing to protect Delhi against monkey violence and monkey irony.

Even the City of New Delhi’s solitary monkey man, Nand Lal, a twenty year veteran municipal monkey man, quit recently in frustration and went home to his village. When he tried to work animal rights activists dogged his every step and finally hounded him back to the Indian hinterland.

Chicago and American cities have been struggling with their own Darwinian dilemmas, dealing with urbanized species that give every indication they are interested in shared governance. In Chicago three species challenge Chicagoans in ever-expanding turf wars.

Canadian geese lost their charm about a year after their first refusal to migrate. Bunnies have learned to cross streets with the light and enter high rise buildings in perilous revolving doors. How soon, we ask, before they can work the elevator system? Pigeons remain perennially annoying neighbors. Chicago’s never-ending battle against pigeons has been stimulated lately by the slash and burn downtown building policy. Underused buildings that pigeons and other downtown birds roosted in until spring every year are falling faster and faster in favor of 80-story condo towers that nothing will be able to live in. Hawks watch from the tops of older high rises and have been the unpaid enforcers of the city’s anti-pigeon policy.

The City of New York is now considering criminalizing pigeon feeding (Chicago Tribune, 11/14/07). NYC used to be the heart of roof-top homing pigeon fanciers. There was the obligatory rooftop pigeon cage scene in all the old New York movies. Didn’t Marlon Brando raise pigeons on his building in “On the Waterfront”? Now the question is whether or not Manhattan toddlers will be able to afford the suggested $1000 bread crumb fine. But that’s Manhattan: if you have to ask you can’t afford it.

Back to Canadian geese, the City of Chicago attempted to organize volunteer egg oiling nest raids a few months back. plan “b” suspects the “volunteers” who showed up that Saturday morning were goose partisans because no one found any eggs. But geese, pigeons and bunnies are of little consequence in the Us Against Them armageddon that is emergent in New Delhi. Personally, plan “b” never liked monkeys, never trusted them. Put ourselves in their position. Charles Darwin, one guy, demotes them and all the humans saw was: we’re better than monkeys!

“Planet of the Apes” and all of its sequels gave us an enjoyable frisson that nested cozily in the security that we would always be top dog in the hind-leg walking world. “Planet of the Apes” films were made and consumed in the innocent times when humans walked the world unchallenged and municipal officials, like deputy mayors of New Delhi were assured of reading their evening papers without being taunted literally to death by monkey marauders.

The current flap between creationism/intelligent design and scientific darwinism is a diversionary tactic. What’s really at stake is who gets to have the Mayor’s mansion, the Governor’s palace, the President’s fortress? Historically India has been the center of the world and it is once more taking that place. What the monkeys do in Delhi they’ll do in Washington, Caracas, Moscow, Paris. That must not happen.

Dear Reader, the solution is clear: we must entreat Nand Lal to return to his old job: Chief (and only) Monkey Catcher for New Delhi municipality. No more deputy mayors must plummet to their deaths, the last sounds they hear being the monkey jeers of a long-tailed gang! join plan “b” in urging the city of New Delhi to send Mr. Lal his return ticket to New Delhi. Perhaps it will be for the Darjeeling Limited and perhaps Owen Wilson will be on board with a few practical ideas about how to keep those monkeys out of office.

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