Saturday, 22 June, 2024

Monkeys And Monks

Rishi Ram Paudyal

To see a microcosm of monkeys’ and babas’ lives, you probably have to make a visit to Pashupati at least once. Monkeys of Pashupati seem to be looking for food or something all the time. As I got off my bus at Tilganga and headed towards the gate, there was a monkey enjoying corn at the entrance. He must have been successful in snatching it away from somebody's hand. It seems that some monkeys don't much like being photographed, especially from close proximity. One monkey got very angry and tried to intimidate me.

However, another mother-monkey who was grooming her child didn't much bother. She seemed to be obsessed in her job. On another occasion, two monkeys seemed to be friends. They were adults and were taking turns in grooming each other. Anyway, as I proceeded further, I saw a weird figure in a three-wheeler whose face was painted orange, red and black. He donned something on his head with two significant bells hanging on each side and different head-figures around it. He had a long moustache and a beard and his body was smeared with ashes.

His three-wheeler had a round steering and on the front side on a rectangular plate and on a small flat blade it was written: 'Om, Nama Shivaya. Jay, Sri Ram Ram, Sita Ram. Ram, Ram.' The three-wheeler had a space to accommodate his crutches. After taking a photograph of him, I gave him a ten-rupee note. For good or bad, it has kind of been a practice for them to ask for money after being photographed. He seemed to be very happy to receive the money. Being curious, I asked what his name was and where he was from. He said his name was Ramdas Bairagi Baba and that he was from Janakpur.

Excitedly, he asked me to wait a second and brought out a piece of paper from his bag. It was a recommendation letter for help signed by a local development officer of Dhanusha. The Bikram Sambat date recorded on the letter showed 2065/02/21. It was written about nine years back and I had no idea if it was fake or genuine. He further took out a notebook from his shoulder bag and showed me what he had written in red ink. I could see only 'Ram' all over the place. He probably wants other people to think that he is a great devotee of Ram, also known as Ramchandra. Hindus believe that Ram is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu. Avatar means incarnation. Ramdas asserted that his main job was to travel around in the three-wheeler.

Interestingly, after a while he asked me if I had seen him on television. I kept quiet as I had never seen him before either on TV or in person. I didn't want to hurt his feelings of being popular. No doubt, he must have been videoed and photographed by many, I was not the first. After that, he hurried back to his next destination.
As I travelled around, I came across more monkeys and more Babas. With regard to life, both these primates were vibrant. The only difference was that the monkeys were in their birthday suits and Babas were scantily clothed.