A friend suddenly called from Tongi. He saw a man with a baby monkey near Tongi Station Road. The monkey was seriously ill. He knew that my in-laws house is in Old Dhaka.
Once there were monkeys right around the corner of Asif’s (Touhidur Rahman) home. He has fascination about monkeys. So, he informed Asif about the news.
We rushed to Tongi soon. The man did not properly take care of the skinny baby monkey. He didn’t say from where he got the baby. For some money, he gave it away to us. The man said its name is Gopal.
We didn’t like the name. So we gave him another name when we brought him home. But, Gopal didn’t respond to the new name. So despite our efforts, the name Gopal stuck with him. These are all stories from the last year.
Gopal’s days and nights
The incident’s from the month of Ramadan last year. Gopal was five-month old back then. Keeping him locked inside his cage, we went downstairs to have Iftar with my mother-in-law. We were out for 15 minutes at best.
We were dumbstruck upon returning home. Things were scattered all over the house. Photo frames, hung on the wall were askew. Glass jars from the kitchen were shattered. Going to the balcony we found the plants ruined too.
And the imp was relaxingly chewing on leaves, while hanging from the grill and shaking one of his legs. That was the first time he broke out of his cage. But, even after getting out of the cage he didn’t leave us.
We began leaving him out of the cage after that day. He trashed things for some more days later. Over time, he began listening to us. He used to listen when we forbade something.
We had Gopal with us for about 10 and a half months. During this time, we never stayed out for more than two to three hours, leaving him at home. We travelled different districts taking him along with us.
There have been many incidents while travelling with him. But, we’ll never forget the episode from Kushtia. A child pelted him with stones. Gopal also bit the child. Though the bite wasn’t that serious, it petrified the child. He returned home crying.
We were also going on our way with Gopal. Right then a man came running, waving a machete at us. If he could have his ways, he would butcher even us let alone Gopal. We got so scared at his violent attitude.
We were failing to make him understand that Gopal is just a baby, he’s vaccinated and the tiny bite won’t cause any trouble. But, who had the time to listen. Within a moment, about a hundred villagers arrived at the scene. We saved Gopal that day, after going through a lot of trouble.
Actually, whenever we went out with Gopal, we had to face troubles. People used to take pictures of him all the time. And, people would give us such looks as if we show tricks with monkeys; that’s our main source of income.
To be honest, those over enthusiastic people used to bother us more than the trouble Gopal caused himself.
Gradually, Gopal had us bound in a loop of attachment. To be clearer, Gopal actually became one of us. Days and nights of two people revolved around Gopal.
For almost a year, we had to plan everything thinking of him first. We wouldn’t even go somewhere, where there was a possibility of the helpless animal getting less care and food.
But, at the end of the day we thought we’re not his own keen and to be in our company isn’t his natural environment either. So, after some time we decided to let him go with his own kind. We asked for advice and help from a lot of people for that.
Gopal joined the troop
There’s a troop of monkeys in Chattogram’s Boalmari. We went there once. We tried making Gopal familiar with that troop for seven days at a stretch. But, Gopal couldn’t socialise with them, no matter what.
He would just jump around on a couple of nearby trees throughout day, and come running at me with an embarrassed look, whenever he would feel sleepy.
Another time, we took him to Sheetarghat in Kaptai after returning from Chattogram. There’s troop of monkeys there as well. This time, Gopal tried a bit harder. He excitedly ran to his own kind a few times. But, the troop turned their back to him.
Just after that we heard of a Mazar in Abangi Tila area of Sylhet. A friend said monkeys have movements around the Mazar. They often come to the Mazar in troops. And, Gopal’s complexion matches with these monkeys.
We visited that Mazar last month indeed to leave Gopal with that troop. We travelled from Dhaka and reached there around 8:00 or 9:00pm. We didn’t found any monkey at Mazar.
Being free, Gopal wondered around from one tree to another. But, the scaredy-cat didn’t move out of our sight. When it was 2:30am, he climbed down from the tree. And, we understood that he was feeling sleepy. We too went to sleep, after the failed attempts that night.
When we woke up in the morning, we found he was covered in rubber tree sap from top to bottom. We didn’t even notice it that night. This happened while he was prancing around under the rubber trees. Asif carried Gopal up, gave him a bath and fed him later.
It was afternoon already by then. Suddenly we saw an elder monkey coming forward. Once it came closer we realised, it came this way being curious to see Gopal.
The monkey was quite older. He would be 15 to 20 years old at the least. We led Gopal towards that elder monkey. He slowly went to that elder monkey. He scared Gopal so much that he came back to us in just two jumps.
Meanwhile, we found many other monkeys coming this way. One by one 60-70 monkeys arrived there. Seven-eight elder monkeys of them came up with an attack on Gopal suddenly.
Gopal didn’t shy away either, he also went towards them with a counter attack. Quite later, we came to realise that Gopal thought, those monkeys were trying to attack us. That’s why Gopal protected us, rebounding on them.
Seeing this love, we felt like returning back with Gopal. But, we wanted him to misunderstand us. So, even in the face of attacks, we kept sending him away again and again. After a while, might be Gopal also understood that we were driving him away. He didn’t return anymore.
After two to two and a half hours later everything calmed down. Gopal’s just a child. Leaders of the monkey troop might have realised that Gopal wouldn’t be harmful for them. So, they received him more easily this time.
Gopal went towards a couple of monkeys similar to his own age. He tried socialising with them. He sniffed other monkeys while they returned the favour as well. I kept looking at him and couldn’t find Gopal anymore. I found a bunch of Gopals and made mistakes every one of them for Gopal.
A while later we saw the monkeys leaving. One after another they sprinted towards the other side of the hillock. Suddenly found out, there were no more monkeys there. Then everything became quiet.
All the monkeys seem like Gopal now
We did get hurt that day, but we are at peace thinking that we could send Gopal back with his keen. Now, he would live freely amidst nature. After leaving Gopal there, the entire monkey species seem like Gopal now.
We have planned to visit Sylhet soon with foods. We’ll feed all of the Gopals. Amidst them all, Gopal might eat that as well. Would Gopal recognise us that day, what do you think?