I performed for Coca Cola in India and made monkey friends at the Kanpur Zoo while I was there.
Kanpur was our last stop. It was a smaller town, but one filled with lots of little treasures. One of those treasures was the Kanpur Zoological Park. Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of zoos, especially in their current form. This one was a bit different, and outside of a few specific animal exhibits whose living spaces were disgustingly small and unnaturally barren enclosures, the animals at Kanpur Zoological Park were free to roam within the confines of the large, minimally constructed living areas built in an immense forest.
There was a crocodile exhibit, but no crocodiles were seen, so we climbed the wall and went hunting. A sign that indicated tigers were ahead read, “Only those who strongly believe in reincarnation should risk going near.” But once again, no tiger, just an empty, half-open cage. No need for reincarnation to even occur. We figured the tiger was out roaming the forest eating other people anyway. Instead, we found a shoddy cage, akin to those that keep people from climbing into playgrounds when they’re closed, housing a female leopard. This thing had all the features, including, but not limited to, rusty locks, an open-top for additional light and free access to the lunch buffet, as well as open fencing for easy midday strolls through the park. Or to the lunch buffet.
What we were obviously excited about more than anything, were the hordes of monkeys occupying the forest. As we continued deeper into the zoo we found a group of our primate brothers occupying the path, and off to the right were gray langurs lined up doing some kind of jump. As we approached, we came to the conclusion that they too were training, and had some kind of systematic group approach, similar to our repetition training within groups. There they were lined up hitting “monkey” precision (Sorry France, I grew up with the catpass, but now after experiencing it, I’m not sure the correct animal was used the first time around) from a thick railing over a ravine, which was approximately 10 feet across and 12 feet down. After each attempt, they would jump back across and into the back of the line to await their next turn. The technique was flawless on most of the jumps, with the exception of a few, and we felt inspired to start playing around on the rail as well. The monkeys noticed, glanced over observing our actions, and went straight back to their monkey business.
Then a little further up we ran into even more of the large gray langurs. I had watched tons of videos on their movement and behavior, and although I’d heard of their aggressive nature, they seemed extremely chill in comparison to their rhesus macaque counterparts. We walked past a big langur casually sitting on a bench with his legs crossed. We stopped, he looked at us, and then turned around. This guy was the most chill and we all wanted to chill, but the idea had crossed my mind that he may also eat my face off. So the only rational choice was for me to take a seat. As I stood there inching closer and closer, Chris continued with the most positive support. “You’ll only get away if they let you get away,” he said casually. I stood there nervously, my hand resting on the top of the bench. “Just do it, he looks chill,” Chris said. The monkey turned around, looked at me calmly, and turned back, resting his head on his arm as if he were waiting for me to join him. So I did. I slowly rotated my body around and in a similar fashion, crossed my legs, and as I did he turned to face me, slid over to the left and put his arm around me. This was the most magical moment of my existence: I had made a monkey friend. But as soon as it began, it was over. His partner, angered by my presence, ran towards us screaming, jumped on the bench and proceeded to clean her man.
Afterward, we continued down the path to a spot in the park that was heavily trafficked both by humans and monkeys. We basically sat and watched the hilarious and somewhat sad interactions between the two. A human would pass by with a sack of food, a monkey would walk up and demand some be given to him, the human would resist and have the food stolen, or attempt to give a little bit and still end up having the bag stolen. We’re supposed to be superior, right? Clearly, the monkey has the upper hand here.
For a few more hours, we continued to enjoy the natural beauty we were immersed in, took some time for much-needed meditation and continued picking some solid fights with monkeys before hitching a ride with some kind fellow back to the hotel. Did I mention this whole beautiful day started with our driver hitting a bicyclist? I may have forgotten that bit.