On one of our days in Mumbai, we decided to take a one-hour ferry ride to the famed Elephanta Caves. I was quite eager to visit the caves, having read so much about them in my art and history classes and their being a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. Interestingly, friends and family in Delhi had discouraged me from wasting an entire day at the caves since they were just "broken stone statues and ruins, nothing of much interest". I guess appreciation of art isn't as commonly found in people as one would think it ought to be.
The ferry ride was delightful, with the endless Arabian Sea all around and seagulls racing with our boat as we headed to our destination. On reaching Elephanta island, a toy train transported us to the foot of the caves. From thereon up the hill, all I could see on both sides were endless troops of monkeys. Older monkeys, little infant monkeys, adolescent monkeys - it was a total riot. During the uphill climb it was a scary prospect for me to go anywhere near them, as my little experience with these primates in Delhi said one must not get too close to them or, heaven forbid, ever brandish one's camera in their faces. They'll lunge at it and before you know it, you'll be left camera-less and probably scratched at many places. So I kept my camera tightly clutched to my side and left the monkeys alone.
About half an hour into my exploration of the caves, however, I had a moment of enlightenment. These hapless inhabitants of Elephanta island were in fact totally harmless. They were too bored to even care to jump at you or try to scare you off of their young ones. They were all really calm and self-absorbed, the older ones single-mindedly picking lice off of each other and the little ones frolicking around. I went up close and clicked as many pictures as I liked without so much as a sideways glance from a single monkey. Needless to say I was surprised, but pleasantly so.
|Mumma monkey feeding her child with corny treats.|
|Notice that look of utter satisfaction on the cunning ape's face?|
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