One gradual, uneven step after the next soon became habit. I removed my gaze from my feet to the trinkets that lined the steps. Although I've only played chess a handful of times with my dad, I thought this quickly carved and painted chess game could be a reasonable gift. I disagreed with the initial asking price of 1000R, argued for 300R, but the lowest the man would settle was for 500R. I kindly declined. I returned to the incline. Food was probably looping on my mind, the Indian lunch hour (2pm) was nearing. My focus was shaken when I heard shouting, and I realized the temple vendor was calling to me. His bargaining was turning into a plea as his furrowed brow and disgruntled tone shouted "300R!" I felt mildly humiliated and a bit stubborn, so I said, "Nahin" and added a waving hand charade to signal that I was no longer interested.
The final 200 steps to reach the temple remained. There are no stats to back this up, but temples and shrines are about five times as frequently seen as churches in a city. Although the area could appeal to tourists, over 99% of the people appeared to be Indian. This is true of every place I remember in the places I've traveled in Asia. I was just as intrigued ... or shocked ... as the local people when I would see a non-local.
100 steps left. Pray flags waved at me and seemed to say thank you for being here today. The temple proudly stood and gazed at the city. A few additional steps on the marble floor felt cold and founded to my bare feet. Although uncommon for temples, a small shop seemed to extend the sales of idols and strategy games by the dozens. Out of instinct, my body sensed the hard serve ice cream, and the group happily substituted dessert for lunch.
We strolled around the corner towards the rail that lined a series of stairs that rounded the left side of the temple. A few happy cumulous clouds signaled the recent presence of monsoon season, while omitting the heavy memory of storms. A couple and a few white folks were walking in the opposite direction, the joy of a group of women in their twenties indulging in ice cream was exchanged via smiles. I exchanged eye contact with a monkey who appeared from the shrubs beyond the rail. He seemed sweet and curious enough. A few of his friends joined and soon it became a reverse zoo scene. Without a defined boundary between us, I couldn't quite tell who were the animals and who were the spectators.
Time froze, I realized we were prey. A monkey charged at Mary; Mary screamed; Mary raised her ice cream coned arm; the monkey climbed Mary; the monkey stole the ice cream and shoved it in his mouth; the monkey retreated to his friends; Mary stood in shock.
At this point, I realized that I still held my ice cream cone and the monkeys longingly and intensely looked at it. You'd assume that my instinct would be to throw the cone in a direction away from me and away from the monkeys. Instead, I first took a giant bite of the 20R cone and then threw it. Delayed flight or fight? No, it boils down to priorities #SaveTheIcecream #DessertForLunch.
In summary, monkeys