Excerpt of The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux
(Page 2 of 7)
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I see you are in process of observing our monkeys.
Like the other explainers, this one precisely summed up what
theyd been doing.
Do not be perplexed, he went on.
It was truethey had been perplexed.
They are assembling each evening. They are taking last of
warmth into bodies. He had the voluptuous and slightly starved way of
saying bodies, giving the word flesh.
I figured so, Audie said. Thats what I said to my wife didnt I,
They are also looking at smoke and fires at temple in town.
That was another thing theyd found. Indians like this never
listened. They would deliver a monologue, usually informative but oddly
without emphasis, as though it were a recitation, and did not appear to be
interested in anything the Blundens had to say.
What temple? What town? the Blundens asked at once.
The Indian was pointing into the darkness. When sun is down,
monkeys hasten awayseeto the trees where they will spend night hours,
safe from harms way. Leopards are there. Not one or two, but abundant.
Monkeys are their meat.
Meat was another delicious word, like body, which the man
uttered as if tempted by it, giving it the sinewy density and desire of
something forbidden. But he hadnt answered them.
Theres leopards here on Monkey Hill? Audie asked.
The old man seemed to wince in disapproval, and Audie guessed
it was his saying Monkey Hillbut that was what most people called it, and
it was easier to remember than its Indian name.
It is believed that Hanuman Giri is exact place where monkey
god Hanuman plucked the mountain of herbals and healing plants for
restoring life of Ramas brother Lakshman.
Yes, that was it, Hanuman Giri. At first they had thought he was
answering their question about leopards, but what was this about herbals?
As you can find in Ramayana, the Indian said, and pointed with
his skinny hand. There, do you see mountain beyond some few trees? and
did not wait for a reply. Not at all. It is empty space where mountain once
stood. Now it is town and temple. Eshrine, so to say.
No one mentioned any temple.
At one time was Muslim mosque, built five centuries before,
Mughal era, on site of Hanuman temple. Ten years ago, trouble, people
invading mosque and burning. Monkeys here are observing comings and
goings, hither and thither.
I have a headache, Beth said, and thought, Inwading? Eshrine?
Many years ago, the Indian man said, as though Mrs. Blunden
had not spokenWas he deaf? Was any of this interesting?I was lost in
forest some three or four valleys beyond here, Balgiri side. Time was late,
afternoon in winter season, darkness coming on. I saw a troop of monkeys
and they seemed to descry that I was lost. I was lightly clad, unprepared for
rigors of cold night. One monkey seemed to beckon to me. He led, I followed.
He was chattering, perhaps to offer reassurance. Up a precipitous cliff at top I
saw correct path beneath me. I was thus saved. Hanuman saved me, and so
I venerate image.
The monkey god, Beth said.
Hanuman is deity in image of monkey, as Ganesh is image of
elephant, and Nag is cobra, the Indian said. And what is your country, if you
Were Americans, Beth said, happy at last to have been asked.
There are many wonders here, the Indian said, unimpressed by
what hed just heard. You could stay here whole lifetime and still not see
Copyright © 2007 by Paul Theroux. Reprinted by permission of Houghton