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In Monkeys on My Mind, a young woman moves to New Delhi to be with her lover only to have her heart broken soon after arriving. To make matters much much worse, monkeys keep stealing all her food.
About the Author
Anna Kriegel is a 25-year-old nomadic writer, born and raised in Paris. She feels most at home in the fantasy fictional worlds where magic exists and heroes grow. Aside from her fascination with crocodiles and octopuses, her main loves are her family and her notebook.
Anna has recently lived in New York, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles, and is currently going back and forth between France and India.
Learn more about Anna’s work at her website: annakriegel.com
Monkeys on My Mind by Anna Kriegel
Today, the monkeys rob my house again. I wake up to an empty fridge and curse my great-grandparents for passing on to me the gene of heavy sleep. I should have put everything in cages, out of reach, like my Spanish aunt told me a week ago when she mocked me tenderly on the phone. But it had seemed so far-fetched.
I could clean up and go out to buy groceries. Instead, I sit on the floor and sob. It feels satisfying to let it all out. It washes from my mind the stares I receive from men as I walk down the street, the dust that sticks to the sweat of my neck and feet, and the insults people yell at each other on every corner.
Since moving here, New Delhi has told me time and time again that I do not belong. It is thirty degrees Celsius at night. Every dish makes me pant for dear life, and I fill my mouth with roti; bread should absorb spices, right? The entire city pushes me away, as a scared lover turns her back to her partner.
I am sitting on the bed in the dark and damp room, begging her to give me another chance. She turns, and with her eyes in mine, snaps, ‘Earn it.’
I sigh and get up from the kitchen floor. I cover my hair and body with purple cloth, run down the humid staircase, and venture outside. The grocery store is within walking distance. Sweat pours off my forehead after ten steps. Coming up on my side of the pavement is a public bathroom that smells like a thousand demons. I could have devised an avoidance system by now, but I have a masochist curiosity that makes me sniff every time, and then I gag when I realize that yes, it is as apocalyptic as I remembered.
Finally, I reach the grocery store. They are surprised to see my tense white face and awkward body language so soon. I look down while I shop, feeling like they know, like they can guess that I cannot even keep my home safe. I throw fruits and vegetables into my basket and add cereal and milk. I have given up on food that has to be cooked because whenever I buy ingredients for fancy meals, I find I’d rather starve in my bedroom than face the empty kitchen. I wish for a robot to cash me out, but instead, a smiling human treats me with nothing but kindness. He repeats the price three times so I can understand him. I suppress the threatening tears and finish the transaction. Out, out, out.
The heat rushes through my clothes. I wander around, not wanting to return home yet. It’s lonely there since she left. I moved to New Delhi to be with her, a thrilling decision, but the thrill slowly faded like the fiery fall season disappearing under the first snowflakes of winter back home.
She had been so happy to discover snow with me; her eyes filled with wonder at the white dunes on the ground and the magical downpour from the sky.
What I truly respect about Delhi is the fierce strength of its present moment. Nostalgia is beaten back by honking vehicles and the elbows of people making their way and salesmen hawking their stores. A tiny smile lightens up my face as I feel gratitude towards India. Yes, it fights me every step of the way, but it also showers me regularly with spices, colorful clothes, and puzzlement. India never disappoints or bores me. This is my hero’s journey, and the monkeys are my first quest.
I stride amongst the stands, cars, and motorcycles. My phone comes out of my pocket by itself. After a few agonizing rings, the worried voice of Poonam sings in my ears. I drink it like a half-dead voyager in the desert.
‘Are you okay?’ she asks. In her tone, I finally understand what she meant when she said, ‘I will always love you, and I truly want you to be happy.’
I explain the whole monkey situation, making the story as humorous as I can. I’d rather seem like a clueless child than a spineless victim. She used to get so annoyed by what she called my passivity.
When I finally pause my monologue, Poonam laughs for so long that I worry she might choke. She then describes in detail the process of hiring a langur to deal with monkeys. We discuss the salary of a langur, how long they take to get rid of the monkeys, and how I can contact them. I question whether they are reliable, and she reassures me by saying, “The government employs them too!” I want to ask what langur means but figure it is probably the name of the profession, like a plumber or an electrician. You hire a langur to chase monkeys away. And why not? I babble a thank you to Poonam, disconnect, and jump lightly in the street. People around me snicker. I will never get used to having my every move observed.
That evening, I fill my house with flowers of all colors and light my favorite incense. I call to hire a langur and insist they come right away. It will cost more, but suddenly, I feel impatient to start my life here, to begin my life anywhere really, to stop making excuses for myself and crumbling at every obstacle.
Two hours of showering, dusting, and organizing pass before the ominous bell-ring. I welcome a man and . . . his monkey. With eyes the size of oranges, I point at the creature and gesticulate in all directions. I repeat, ‘langur, langur,’ and the man nods. I try more words, but the man and I do not speak any common language, other than money. He extends his hand, waiting. This is it; I am truly crazy enough to belong in this insane country. I give him the money, and he and the monkey leave.
Days pass, and my food is not robbed. Every morning, I wince as I tiptoe into the kitchen, preparing for the worst to prevent myself from having another breakdown. Every day that I eat breakfast in my own house, I feel stronger and prouder. I grow more talkative on the street. I agree to have coffee with Poonam. A friend of hers comes along. A week later, I party with them and meet more people. And more. Some of them have lunch with me, show me their offices, and we travel to Jaipur one weekend. My home fills with the laughter and debates of a strong group of women who want to make the world better one step at a time.
One night, as I slip into bed, I remember the phone call with Poonam. She had said that the langur was the only solution, but it was a temporary one. I smile as I realize that soon the monkeys will be back, fulfilling their own quest inside my welcoming apartment. I know I will have to hire another langur, but more importantly, I know I am going to be just fine.
About the Story
Monkeys on My Mind was written by Anna Kriegel. The following is from the author:
When life mocks you by making you move to India for a girl and then removing the girl from the equation, it usually throws in an extra challenge: it sends monkeys into your house, and they discreetly rob your food. Ball’s in your court: will you break or fight back?
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