Space Monkeys and Sacred Monkeys

On the subject of rhesus monkeys . . .

Not far from my old office in Delhi was a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman, who is depicted with a monkey’s face and to whom monkeys are sacred. Suppliants seeking Hanuman’s blessing feed the monkeys around the temple, which has helped make them into a plague upon the city, merrily destroying electrical wiring, fare-jumping on the train, and conducting well-organized muggings. The situation resulted in the writing of one of my favorite New York Times sentences: “Mr. Singh said that he had 65 langurs urinating on prominent homes and buildings throughout Delhi.” (Context is everything.)

Novices sometimes bring fruit to the temple monkeys, and the truly unimaginative bring bananas. But these are the most spoiled monkeys in the history of monkeydom, and they have been known to turn their noses up at a bunch of bananas. Pro tip: Monkeys love McDonald’s.

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