[monkeywire] India's Monkey Problem
kyablon at chicagoreader.com
Fri Feb 6 16:47:28 EST 2009
Too long to post in its entirety here, but here's the first page of six:
They've got a slight animal-control problem in
Delhi, India: Thousands of wild rhesus monkeys,
addled by the sprawl that's taking over their
habitat, are dropping out of trees to steal food,
chug booze, and murder prominent citizens. Did we
mention that many of the victims believe these creatures are gods?
By James Vlahos
The cousin of the dead man told me not to go. He
expressly forbade it. But I'd come all the way to
India, and I wasn't going to leave without seeing
the site of the accidentor, as most people
regarded it, the scene of the crime. The Savita
Vihar neighborhood of New Delhi, separated from
the slums of Old Delhi by the Yamuna River, is
typical of the modern, upscale residential
colonies multiplying around the city. Two decades
ago, eastern Delhi was mainly farmland and
forest. But that had given way to gas stations,
Nokia shops, and housing for millions of
residents, many of them members of a burgeoning
middle class periodically celebrated on the covers of Newsweek and Time.
My driver turned down a tree-lined lane. He drove
slowly, me hunched paparazzo-like next to him
with camera and notebook, until we parked
opposite No. 59, a gated, three-story building of white stucco.
P.S. Bajwa, the dead man's cousin and the owner
of a construction company, had met me an hour
earlier inside an office tower his crew was
building. Shouting over the shriek of a circular
saw, he'd taken out a pencil and sketched what he
thinks happened to his relative on the morning of October 20, 2007.
Now I pulled out the drawing and looked up at the
house. I pictured Surinder Singh Bajwa emerging
from double doors onto a second-story balcony to
pick up his morning paper. He looks up, spots a
gang of intruders coming his way, and,
panic-stricken, grabs a stick to fight them off.
He lunges forward and takes a mighty swing, but
the intruders dart to safety. Bajwa is carried
forward by the momentum of the attempted blow; he
hits the balcony railing and tumbles over the
side, plunging 13 feet and landing on his back.
That's how he's found, face up in a pool of blood. A day later he is dead.
Twenty yards from the balcony stood a large
billboard marked with slogans for the Indian
People's Party. The face of Surinder Bajwa
dominated one corner. He wore a Sikh's red
turban, clipped beard, and upturned mustache and
had a commanding gaze. Bajwa had been the deputy
mayor of Delhi. That's one reason his death
became internationally known. The other is that
the intruders blamed for his death were monkeys.
It didn't matter that they hadn't actually
murdered Bajwa; to the public and media, they
were to blame. MAYOR KILLED BY MONKEYS, one headline screamed.
P.S. Bajwa wanted me to stay away from the house
because he feared I would disturb Surinder's
widow. But he supported my investigating the
issues behind his cousin's death. "The monkey
menace is increasing every day," he said. "It must be stopped." . . .
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