Ranikhet is a beautiful quaint little hill station or one can also call it a lovely military town due to the presence of Kumaun regiment, Assam Riffles and other sections of Armed Forces there. Situated at an altitude of 1869meters above the sea level, it has a charmingly un-spoilt natural beauty….Serene and quiet. One can view the snow-capped Kamet, Nanda Devi, Trishul and Chaukhamba peaks beyond Ranikhet.
It is a nine hour drive from Delhi and I have spent many of our memorable vacations with friends and family there, watching some glorious sunsets, enjoying moonlit walks in the woods and having a time of my life just being amidst such enchanting beauty.
The place is known for its flora and fauna and one of the most amazing thing one sees here are the rhesus monkeys .I had always been fascinated by them and watching them in wild was one of the most remarkable experience for me.
On some of our visits we managed to stay very close to my son’s school GDBMS ,a residential school owned by the Birlas .The school is set in a magnificent backdrop of Himalayas at an altitude of 5500 feet, projecting a view of 720 km of snow capped Himalayan ranges.
Among the students and the teachers there were two major groups of rhesus monkeys who dominated the various areas of school but never harmed anyone.
On one fine morning Adi and I were standing on the terrace mesmerized by the beauty of the snow peaks when the branches of the trees in the school compound in front of us began to sway dangerously and loud noises cud be heard .Adi pointed to a large male monkey sitting on a huge branch, jumping and taking out a hooting kind of sound.
“He is the ‘Dada’ amongst the monkeys”. His arrival means that a group of monkeys will follow”, he explained.
Soon there were growls and heavy fights among the two warrior troops. One trying to invade the territory and the other vehemently protecting it .It was a complete war zone. The females huddled together in the thick branches while their men chased the enemy out of there area .A big scuffle took place between the two leaders but unfortunately the gang war did not last long .The school guards shooed away the rowdies.
The invader gave a last angry look and turned away, vowing to take revenge.
The next day we took a tour of the school and as it was his last day there, I had permission to be with him in the dorm while his father completed the formalities.
Lots of boys joined in to tell the hilarious tales of the monkey gangs.
He was called RIP JAW because of a big gaping gash on his cheek .I could see his big teeth from there .Rip Jaw was the leader of one of the two groups of monkeys there His territory was the mess, the fields and the junior hostel area .He was a bully and got into fights with every one very often. He would pick one of the smaller monkeys and slap the poor baby so hard that it would send them flying.
He was considered a terror among other monkeys. We spotted many of the group members as Adi told me about how the Rip Jaw group hung around the basket ball and volleyball nets ripping them apart sometimes or they just managed to sit atop the beautiful statue of Goddess Saraswati, and presided over the student assembly etc.
One of the small member of the group, a cute little joker called CHAMPU was a delight to watch and fortunately I too witnessed his attics .He would stand on two feet and march along with the students or imitate them in whichever way possible even praying with folded hands during prayer time .Champu was loved by all and behaved as if he too was a student there .Which was amazing.
He had a girlfriend with whom he would sit for hours on top of the gym terrace but as soon as the students lined up for some activity, he would abandon his lady love and join the fun below like a good student .Never missing his attendance .
The territory of Rip Jaw extended till the medical room located between the junior and senior hostels .The school compound is huge so they had a large area with all kind of trees including some fruit trees.
We soon found the reason for the loud hooting and the frenzy among the Rip Jaw group as a huge fat male monkey came dashing from one of the massive old trees, he hooted and jumped from one tree to another with his troop. His Fat red ass visible more prominently than his entire body.
That was FAT ASS, the leader of the second big group that stayed in the school premises. His territory started from the medical room complex, which was a regular fight club for these superheroes. Here each group showed their power and protected their territory apart from a display of strength to the other group.
Though the groups fought like crazy but none of them harmed any human there .They lived in a peaceful coexistence, unlike their city cousins. The food was in abundance and they had a lot of space to hang around freely.
Both the groups had subordinate males and females comprising several small families. The females of both the groups would just sit on the branches of any comfortable place of their choice and groom each other; half of their time is spent in child care. The adorable cute little bundles of joy are looked after and cared for by all the females in the group unconditionally.
Fat Ass’s territory was the auditorium and the adjoining grounds including the senior hostel building. He was massive and hogged the whole day.
Unlike the Rip Jaw troop, this one was a total entertainment material for everyone. They climbed on the grills, swung on the T.V. cables. It was a complete circus out there when the Fat Ass troop show started.
Fat Ass, though he pretended to be big boss, was a total fattu and would get scared at slightest prank by Adi or his group .His troop was much bolder and at least tried to put up some show of bravery.
Unlike Fat Ass, RJ was bold leader of a timid gang, who would run away at the slightly provocation by the senior boys.
Adi showed me the windows of his dormitory from where he and his friends scared the shit out of the members of the Fat Ass troop.
After lunch I was in for a great entertainment. Adi hid under the big dorm window which was very close to the outer boundary wall which has a small grill. .After a while a big monkey from the Fat Ass group walked past the window. On a cue from his friends, Adi jumped and shouted “HHHA” as loud as he cud .The male monkey got so scared that it fell over the grill .The boys in the dorm rolled on the floor with laughter.
Then a smaller one came running ,lost in himself .The moment Adi emerged from under the window ,shouting ,the chap screamed and fell right between the window and the wall .There was another round of applause from the boys .By this time the junior boys had come to join the fun. Now was the turn of Fat Ass, who was basking in the glory of winning a fight he never really fought.
Near the medical room fight club there are two buildings separated by steps going down hill .The slanting roofs were the running tracks for many of these monkeys .Rip Jaw had crossed over to sunbathe on one of the roofs and Fat Ass took it as a personal insult and pretended to launch himself in mid air towards him .The RJ ,who had not seen him ,got so scared that he slid down the entire roof in the midst of joyous shouting and hooting from the boys ,who were watching the drama unfold from the field .Fat Ass moved about the roof as if he had won a war on his own .slowly he descended from roof and climbed the boundary wall to go in the shades of the trees near the staff quarters .
Adi was waiting for that moment and just as the bully came near the window, his red ass glowing in the bright sunlight, Adi gave such a scare to him that he jumped high up in the air, his face white with terror, before falling on the other side of the wall.
The boys rolled over on their bunkers and floor and the noise they made was deafening.
I watched in amusement, at the pleasure the kids got by scaring these poor creatures and came to know that this activity had been going on for a long time now and the monkeys never got better of them.
It was just a fun thing the boys did; they never harmed any of the creatures, and are it the hyena or the fox which occasionally ventured in the playgrounds or the primates who considered the school as their own institution.
It was a completely harmonious coexistence of humans and animals and I found it very comforting that students were totally in tune with the nature around them.
We took leave from the teachers and there was a tearful farewell from Adi’s friends .I decided to move away from the parting friends.
Half an hour later Adi joined us near the main entrance and we drove off towards our next destination ,leaving behind beautiful memories of a great school and life time friends ,both humans and animals .