Over the years, however, I have developed a strange curiosity, perhaps bordering on spiritual, to explore popular religious hubs associated with major world religions and experience first hand the vibe that attracts pilgrims by the busload.
One winter, the roads of the ancient town of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, called out to me. The tapestry of mighty bulls with painted horns meandering through narrow lanes, the sound of bells, the gushing stream of devotees vying for a peek of the idol of Krishna and attempting to wash off all their sins at the bathing ghats, street-food stall owners calling out to pilgrims to try out their chole bhature and Pedas, created an electric energy in this ancient town that is hard to describe.
Thriving in the midst of all this activity is a unique business where man and his ancestor apes are astute business partners.
Thanks to endless nights of hiding under my blanket, way past bedtime reading storybooks, I was soon blessed with myopic vision. My glasses and I have over the years developed the kind of comfortable relationship that comes from being clear from the very beginning that we don’t like each other but have no choice but to coexist. So, it was a sudden shock for me when one fine evening while seated on a moving cycle rickshaw in Mathura, I suddenly realised that my glasses were missing from their usual perch.
The world was suddenly a blur, as was my head. I certainly had not dropped them and neither had my glasses disappeared by magic and clear vision restored by some divine power of this mystic land.
Suddenly, out of my foggy world emerged a young chap who pointed to a monkey sitting on a roof, who he had just spotted stealing my glasses. I was shocked! An entire ape had hopped into a moving cycle rickshaw and had picked my glasses right off my nose and I had no clue!
My knight in shining armour volunteered to fetch my glasses. Unlike in the Aesop fable where only after several rounds of negotiations and mimicking a monkey threw down the clothes he had stolen from a man, this ape threw down my glasses into the outstretched hands of this man as soon as he threw up a packet of peanuts and the negotiation was complete in the blink of an eye.
As my glasses (with its stem chewed upon) were handed back to me gallantly, I profusely thanked my unexpected saviour.
Just as I was about to ride away, he suddenly ran up to me and demanded Rs.500! I was shocked and realised that the monkey was in fact his partner in crime. When I flatly refused, he asked me to reimburse him for the cost of the peanuts at least so that he could break even!
It was only after I threatened to report him and his buddy to the police that he fled from the scene. His accomplice who was watching us from a distance now leapt over the roof, tail up in the air and escaped at lightning speed.
Unfortunately their cute, little plan flopped because unlike the monkey who had the business sense of taking the peanuts first before parting with his booty, the man was not cunning enough to negotiate a sum with me before handing back my glasses.
Mathura did give me a shot of much needed spiritual bliss, but the life lesson I really learnt is that if I ever need a management course in business administration, I now know which species to approach.
Contacting Piya Bose
(An Exclusive Travel Club for Women)
Read more about Piya in her Female Entrepreneur profile.