There’s this boy in our office whose job is to roam around the corridors, carrying a catapult/saihli, which he uses to scare off the monkeys that simply refuse to leave the safe haven of one of the greatest architectural monuments left behind by the British. Together with the langur boy, his big black-faced langur in tow, their job is to roam around the office, making the corridors and rooms monkey-free, at least till the last man leaves office. Come night time, and the whole edifice becomes the monkeys’ home. Till morning dawns and they troop out, clinging to the sides of the walls in single file, fleeing the langur hot on their heels in pursuit, while the saihli-boy gleefully takes potshots at the fleeing troops from the ground. I am told that this is their daily routine which I get to witness on the few rare occasions that I am forced to reach office before 9 in the morning when duty calls.
I often wonder about the langur quietly following the langur-boy around in office. After all, she is a colleague, a government servant, as much as the smug bureaucrats strutting around, self-importantly trying to appear busy. She gets a monthly salary like me, attends office from 9 to 5, and, even has a family to go back to, as I found out the other day. The same day I found out that the langur was a she. It was the day I rejoined duty after a short one-month leave. I had gone to relieve myself of all the excess fluids resulting from too much coffee. As I came out, feeling all relaxed and ready to face the rest of the day, I suddenly came face to face with the langur softly cuddling her baby, an exact tiny replica of herself.
They made such a perfect picture that I stopped and stared. The langur-boy, sensing my interest, commented that since she had the baby a week or so back, she had refused to leave her baby at home. As the langur looked at me, her doleful eyes seemed to say that she deserved her own maternity leave as much as any other government servant. I couldn’t help but agree with her. After all, every time I saw her, she had been busy doing her job – chasing or at least scaring off the monkeys with her mere presence in the building – definitely earning her salary. I could think of many humans, a few in my Division itself, who have perfected the art of appearing busy without actually doing anything the whole day. After all, I thought, if they can get maternity leave, she deserves it as much as them, if not more.
Two weeks have passed and I’ve not seen her again. I like to think that some babu has taken pity on a fellow colleague and she’s been granted her maternity leave. But I still see the saihli-boy every day, busy taking up position in the many nooks and crannies in our office, waiting patiently to ambush any monkey trying to take advantage of the langur’s absence. I suppose he’s come to some sort of an understanding with the langur-boy or the babu to work extra hours during the langur’s maternity leave. I keep a lookout for her and the cute baby every time I roam the corridors and wait for the time I’ll see them again. But, at this rate, I suppose the baby would have grown up and, perhaps, taken over from her mother by the time I see them again. Or, perhaps, she will come without her baby who will be waiting at home to grow up and take over eventually. Maybe, under the die-in-harness scheme, just like any other government servant.
Delhi 3 Aug 2006