One even I was idly chatting with my carer. Duties were done and differences put aside, on neutral ground when the subject of abbreviations surfaced. In a little quiz I asked him: “We all know what B.C. means. Know what A.D. Stands for?” “Yes” answered the proselytiser smugly, “I do. It stands for “After the Death.” I don’t think Benjamin really believed me when I told him it didn’t, even if it amounted to almost the same thing, so to keep the new peace I added that I was sure that in some small corner of my universe, A.D. will indeed stand for just that. That moment has now arrived. In my precarious hamlet known as Raj Acre we are indeed eight weeks After the Death. After the death of the matriarch monkey who lies buried a small stone’s throw away from where I write these lines, pondering at times what she meant to the community, what her position was in the society and whether she’s remembered.
She had a place all right. Opinion here seems to be that she was Chief Wife to the group leader. Being the largest and the best-fed female in the troupe, she was undoubtedly his favourite concubine. She carried his child. The child clung to her belly like anything, so much so that if you saw her in the half-shade you’d think she had an excrescence or overgrowth, a giant skin-tag attached dependently from her underbelly. Which course of he was. It wasn’t that he couldn’t take his leave of her independently. He could do that. He could wander one or two metres from her body as if he was a thread on a reel. But she never reeled him in. He reeled himself in, his instinctive recall leash triggered by the slightest fright. The slightest thing which happened and it was Back to Mum, because Mum was the safest place in the whole wide world of Raj Acre. Whatever nasty fights broke out amongst the monkey gang, or between the monkeys and the wild dogs here, things were always safe for our infant. Safe from everything he was when he was with Mum.
|Dad in a Reflective Mood|
The death of the matriarch saw a sea-change. Her baby was in denial. He had one solution to all his problems which was Go Back To Mum so that’s what he did now that she was dead. He wrapped himself tightly round her still body, sucking on her cold, black milk-less nipple, puzzled bewildered and unbelieving. All the troupe were watching from their hidey-spaces between the trees, and most of all the Leader was watching, very carefully. Of a sudden he ran down from the branches and scooped the youngster up, carrying him up and away.
It was a rude weaning for the infant. I wondered how he would eat and whether there was another female with milk, a wet-nurse who would take him on. There wasn’t. It was take what Dad offered you, eat it and enjoy it. It’s what he tried to do, and the child grew thinner and thinner. Then he turned a corner; forgetting about Mum, his allegiance was transferred to Dad who couldn’t offer milk but gave the best protection he could give, which was the best there was. There’s only one guy allowed to be Dad in the troupe, one guy who’s allowed the mount the females. He who must be obeyed and given the biggest, choicest share of everything there is.
|The Orpan Tentatively Plays|
The infant now clung to the male’s belly, pressed closer to him than a limpet. And the close bond soon turned to tough love. Dad would biff him, chasing him along a tree branch, toward the thinner end where it was thin and green. He learned that there was nowhere left to go, and after a few moments of junior’s panic twisting his wizened old face, Dad would lumber back into the bole of a tree, sitting there resplendent in his leadership.
And so it went on. The sea-change continued its progress slower than the hour hand of a clock. Members of the troupe were now more inclined to carry on their business amongst themselves, while we tried to mind ours, which usually included quite a bit of theirs.
|Peeping Out from the Lower Fork|
When the caring troupe have left me to make my meal or wash clothes, leaving me alone in my Cave, the leader comes to see me, usually without baring his teeth and without making a rude noise at me.
He keeps his willy well tucked into its fur pouch touch too which I gather is a sign of respect. I don’t treat him any different to anyone else. He comes into the ‛Main Hall’ room and has a look around and I chat to him as if he was anybody else, remembering not to smile. The other day I caught him looking in my cloth bag and I told him off. He just lay it to one side.
The baby is the shyest one of all. He seems seems terribly in awe that Dad can be so bold as to approach a Monster Ape and not get chased away. That’s where I sign off from this file, abruptly and without notice, like the power-cuts we get so suddenly here. My days here are numbered, almost down to the fingers of one hand, and my laptop battery zooms toward the zero point. These notes will be posted soon.
Kanantham Poondi Village, India