Through the last many years, I have had the pleasure to be a part of the Swyambunath community, living amongst its various Tibeto/Buddhist groups. It is the most important Buddhist site, outside of Tibet and the largest forested area in Kathmandu, protected under a UNESCO banner. But strangely enough my most interaction has been with the areas other, more mischievous residents: simians, or monkeys, to us lay-folk.
Mostly it is humorous, even cute to be surrounded by and living with literally 1,000s of these red-haired, adorable critters. They bring endless entertainment to my Himalayan hound, Kailash, as he chases them about the gardens. But it hasn’t always been fun. Cared for flowers and gardens have been destroyed by their curiosity, trees have been felled in persuading them to leave, houses have been changed relentlessly, scars have been accumulated and inoculations have become a part of life, for both the hound and I.
For the most part, it is a thoroughly enjoyable thing to be surrounded by these critters, living in Kathmandu city’s largest forested area. They live a life full of reverence and respect. Many a banana and piece of bread is offered by the devout to the residents of this holiest of places. Even as they destroy cables, walls and gardens in their daily movements, never would the community allow the thoughts of moving or eradicating these residents, to exist.
Finally, yesterday, my level of interaction changed with these critters, from being one of guarded awe and occasional life-stopping fear (when a pack attacks).
Going to inspect my water tank, which like most homes sits on my roof, I was startled from my skin, to see one poor-fella drowned within a 1,000L coffin. The hot days of late must have driven the young fella to quest for water and respite from the days heat. Well, he found our tank, half full, hauled off the lid and proceeded to have his fun. Sadly, as the tank was only half full, he could not make his way out.
It seems he had been there for more than two days, when I stumbled upon him. And sure enough, I went monkey fishing. The stench was tough to bare, but so was the idea of this creatures torment as he tried to free himself from his exile, without success. His face reflected his final moments, which became mirrored in my own face, as I worked to haul him out. Worse yet was figuring out where to lay the dead king of Swyambu’s forest...
My girlfriend and I, pushed the thoughts of all the water we had used, from our minds; the personal interaction we had had with “death”. We put it down to being just one of those things that happens when you live in the King’s lands. As we waited for night to dispose of our unexpected guest, we washed and scrubbed the tank over and over, churning the thoughts of how fickle and connected all of life is in this hallowed place.
After all the scars, battles and moments shared with these kings, this has become the toughest chapter in our lives here, so far. But one I feel that connects me all the more.