Thursday, December 17, 2009

Horses, Monkeys and Puppies - Oh My!

We went to Matheran, a small "hill station" outside of Mumbai. It's about a few hours drive and a pretty mountain vacation spot for Mumbaites who need a respite from the heat of the city. To maintain the rustic charm of the town, no cars are permitted. People get around on horseback, hand-pulled rickshaws or plain old walking. Though one has to be alert where one steps due to all the horses! And, by the end of the day, everyone's shoes and clothes are covered in red dust. There is a train that goes up the mountain, but apparently it's quite slow and people can just walk next to it.

The mountains are made of red dirt and rocks. There was one lookout point we dubbed "Mars" because of the large red boulders. I rode on a horse years ago in high school. That's been it. So, getting on a horse now was a bit precarious for me, and walking on the rough roads made it a bit jarring experience. It took me some time to have faith in the horse and the guy leading the horse. And, having to turn off my imagination. There was one part where Annika's horse faltered a bit because he heard a noise. However, she wasn't scared at all and understood her horse was only 2 years old. She forgave him. We got quite comfortable with the horses quickly, especially Annika who wanted to ride it without a lead.

Monkeys are all over the place. We stayed at the Lord's resort, which had separate buildings for the rooms. During the day, windows and doors must be kept locked because monkeys know how to creep into the rooms. They're jumping on the roof in the morning! One morning, we were sitting under the tree having our tea, and a monkey snuck behind us. He made himself comfortable and sat on the table to eat the toast. He snatched some sugar packets and opened them under the tree. (Great, a monkey on a sugar high!). We all sat still because these guys are quite aggressive. The hotel staff is all equipped with slingshots (yes, super technology here!) They sling rocks at the monkeys, and the monkeys run from the sight of them. So the staff will hang around the poolside and tables. The kids loved the slingshots so much, they got their own.

Now the puppy story. My brother-in-law, nephew and I went for a walk in the late evening. We saw a small white puppy on the side and we stopped to pet it. First of all, there are lots of stray dogs everywhere and we usually just stay away from them. But, this puppy looked about 1 month old and was so adorable. We stopped to pet. My six-year-old nephew thought getting permission "to pet him" was the same as permission to "make him a pet". He planned how we should take him home and coddled him like his parents have never seen him do. We stopped at a small store and bought biscuits and borrowed warm milk from the store owner. We called everyone else out and at 11pm, we were standing on the street outside the hotel feeding the puppy biscuits dipped in milk. The kids named him Biscuit and Tiger. Annika pointed out he was shivering and I should give up my shawl. (No.) We convinced the kids to leave him on the side and that's where he belonged. He was gone in the morning. We know that puppy has not received this much love in his entire life and probably will never again.

The next morning the kids wanted to go out and look for a new puppy of the day. However, the hotel owner had a cocker spaniel Rusty, which entertained them. Rusty was helpful in keeping away the monkeys.

I loved the simplicity of the life we experienced for 3 days. It reminded me of going to my father's small town Rajpipla when I was young. You're allowed to get dirty. You're allowed to run around at night. You're allowed to interact with animals and random people. Our overprotective American parental instincts were going haywire!! Also, it's amazing to see these kids fight over slingshots. We're not talking about Wii or Playstation or whatever. Just a wooden slingshot with cheap rubber tied around it.

Oh, by the way, monkeys don't come out at night. Only the bats do.


J.Doe said...

I could imagine how the hotel staff used to seeing too many monkeys would view them only as annoyances th slingshoot at to get them to go away, but for an American raised girl I think it would be kind of cool to have monkeys around. Did Annika like the monkeys or was she too annoyed by their presence?
And lucky for you that they didn't want to bring the puppy home!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of the monkeys...never was. They are cocky and are in need of an attitude adjustment.

It sounds as though you guys are having an amazing time, that's awesome.

Just watch where you walk.