Monkeys and Pineapple Juice

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Yesterday afternoon we walked down to Lakshman Jhula. It’s the second time we’ve visited. We followed Amar down the road, past stalls and street vendors selling water, cigarettes, religious trinkets, and plastic bags full of monkey food.

The Laxshman Jhula Bridge.
The Laxshman Jhula Bridge.

Ten rupees for four bags of monkey food. I had two and Amar had two. We continued on down the road. Here it was not lined with stalls and vendors, but with beggars. The last time we came I did not have any change for the beggars, and I realized, then, that I still didn’t. I tried to get change at the hotel, but they couldn’t change a ten-rupee note for me. Amar approached one of the holy men/beggars. He spoke to him in Hindi, then looked at me. “You still want change?”

I started laughing. “Yes,” I said. The holy man pulled a handful of coins out of his pocket and counted out ten one-rupee pieces. I handed him the bill and he handed me the coins. “There’s something inherently ironic about this,” I told Nathaniel.

I had meant to save the coins and give them to the beggars that looked like they needed it most: the ones missing arms and legs, and the little old women. But all the holy men surrounding the change-maker knew I had change, now, and they scowled at me and shook their cups more vigorously. “It’s like paying trolls,” Nathaniel commented, as I dropped coins in cups so that we could continue walking. And finally we were past the beggars and we’d made it to the bridge.

So cows CAN go down stairs!
So cows CAN go down stairs!

The bridge was where many of the monkeys hung out. We had three bags of monkey food left, as Amar had opened and eaten one of them (he offered some to us, it was a little like a nutty trail mix). The monkey closest to me was a baby. Amar had warned me about handing food to monkeys, he said I should toss the food on the ground. I opened my first bag and tossed a few nuts on the ground. He didn’t notice.

A larger monkey did, and he approached from across the bridge. I tossed him a few more nuts. He ignored them and continued heading straight towards me. When he was right in front of me, he held out both hands. I laughed and reached for a few nuts from my bag to hand him. He wanted the whole bag. He reached out and grabbed it. I let go. He sat on the ground and tore into the plastic, eating the nuts, and spilling them on the ground.

Beautiful.
Beautiful.

I still had a bag left, and was thinking about saving it, when another monkey approached me. This one cut right to the chase. He loped over and grabbed the bottom of my shalwar, gesturing towards my remaining bag of food. I was not sure how to make him let go. I hissed at him and he ignored me. Amar chucked his bag of food a little to my left. The monkey let go of me and went after the bag. My last bag I handed to a monkey sitting on the railing of the bridge. We crossed the bridge without further incident. Definitely ten rupees worth of amusement.

Almost directly under the bridge is a place for bathing in the river. Nathaniel and Amar went down to the river to feed the fish, and I settled myself in a café overlooking the beach. The menu advertized Fresh Pineapple Juice, with mineral water ice cubes. It looked too good to pass up, but I was hesitant. The first time I had pineapple juice, I was 17 and sitting in a café in a jungle in Ecuador. The juice was so good that eating pineapple ever since has always been somewhat of a disappointing experience.

I ordered the pineapple juice. It did not disappoint.

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