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Monkey business in Delhi

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Gordon Farquhar | 13:43 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I've been in Delhi for 24 hours, and I'm wondering how long it's going to take for my brain to re-calibrate. I'm constantly doing double-takes.

I was pleased that even the locals bend their necks when an elephant ambles across a six-lane road in the semi-darkness, carrying three passengers and a shrub.

No one looks twice when a motorbike chugs by four-up: only the driver's got a helmet on, behind him are two women side-saddle in their saris, one clutching a babe in arms.

The extraordinary way in which the traffic balletically inter-weaves, with nothing but a micron or two of paint between bumpers is fascinating, not least for the almost complete absence of road rage.

Langur monkey

Pull some of those moves in London traffic, and you'd better make sure your doors are locked and your horn's loud. They all work over here, needless to say: all traffic manoeuvres are accompanied by a symphony of honking.

Those in charge of our sanitised health and safety culture at home would be in apoplexy within 10 minutes of arrival here.

They'd start with a tutting about the abundance of trip hazards, progressing to sharp intakes of breath at the random cables poking out of unlikely places, before descending into shrieks at the occasional unguarded decent-sized hole someone's forgotten to fill.

Hopefully, they'd be turning around in horror and heading for the airport before spotting the woeful lack of safety clothing for workers - helmets, boots, gloves, eye-protection?

There's no concession to gender in that respect either, everyone's in the same boat. I noticed a group of six or so women by the side of the road having a rest from their labours on the tarmac gang, the girls from the black-stuff taking five, not dressed in protective overalls but just sporting uniform blue saris.

Back to the beastly side of Delhi, I'm enjoying the chipmunks scurrying up and down the trees, the sight of the dozens of magnificent red kites circling up on the thermals and the seasonal appearance of the post-monsoon dragonflies.

Less welcome are the irritating knots of stray dogs, sticking their noses into everything, yelping and scratching, and of course the mosquitoes for obvious reasons.

I'm intrigued to read that the authorities are deploying numbers of large, somewhat fierce langur monkeys to deter the antics of smaller, less well-behaved primates.

They've "rented" 38 of them, accompanied by trainers, to stand guard at some of the games venues, with the aim of preventing any unauthorised monkey business. Perhaps over the next three weeks, I'll acclimatise, get the blinkers on, but I'd hate to miss something too.



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