My First Week in India I Was Attacked by Screaming Monkeys

The attack happened in the early morning. I was in my room in an apartment in India, sleeping off my jet lag, dreaming of the life I’d left behind: The cool California fescue. My creek. Humans slurping smoothies in the front yard, diligently avoiding conversation with neighbors while aimlessly stroking my back. So polite and quiet. So peaceful. 

Rohan and AshokaMy old home in Oakland: A monkey-free zone

Don’t get me wrong, in the early morning India isn’t so bad. The monsoon breeze isn’t yet an oven blast.  Nitwits on the street are too sleepy to honk. The feral dog fights have paused. The produce barkers aren’t screaming the price of chiku. The nightly wail of garba music—we arrived during Navratri, festive season—has yet to pierce my eardrums for hours on end.  All the jabbering and terrible, just terrible off-key singing is on hiatus. For a couple minutes, at least.

I should probably try to get along. But listen, I’m a nine-year-old Bengal cat, I’m not going to change. I mean sure, India is in my genes. But so are the High Sierras, where I was born. I’ve been on walks to Golden Gate Park and ridden the hills of Sausalito in the baby bike trailer. I have had old cat ladies wrap fuzzy pink collars around my neck and actually try to STEAL me because I am such a nice guy (and not bad looking either). I know of what life can be. What it should not be:


An actual rhesus monkey outside my apartment. Not a nice guy.

A pinched hairless face, howling through my sleep. On the creaky bamboo painters’ scaffold outside my open window crouched half a dozen sub-humans. I mean, I’d never even seen these. My silky silver fur stood on end; I puffed up. Unable to bite or scratch—I know, I’m too much a lover—I put on a big show. I started to drool (I always drool when very anxious). I meowed very loudly, the trademark of a Bengal. But to no avail: They screeched and charged in.

So naturally, I jumped out the window.

I’ve done this before at our old grey house in Oakland. A few leaps from the porch to the fence gets you into the garden. But our new flat is EIGHT STORIES HIGH!

It is above a hot, festering four-lane road. I hit the scaffold. I scrambled down four floors. Towards the painters, legs dangling off a second story terrace under a nice big banyan tree. I leapt right over them. I think one spilled his chai.

One of my humans was below, waving frantically. The littlest painter was suddenly crawling towards me up the scaffold like a nimble super simian. Oh boy. Why had SHE sent him? Was it not enough that I had been attacked by monkeys? I scurried from one side of the building to another to get away. I guess that’s when my left fore-leg gave out.

Now all four of my humans had gotten out. Total pandemonium down there. My children jumping, shouting. HE was testing the splintery bamboo scaffold with his weight. SHE would call out “Ashoka!” and I would reply my trademark, “Meow,” which the Turkish Airlines flight attendant, several catsitters, and the children have remarked sounds a lot like an indignant baby. (What do you expect? I’m castrated.) Even the drivers and valets gawked and pursued little old me. I hobbled towards the cool, quiet banyan.

The painter found me on another lower terrace amid the green marble and potted bonsai, but I smartly evaded him and dipped around the bend. I just wanted a nap, maybe in that tree. I never made it. Limping, I squirmed through the rusty iron bars of an abandoned storeroom on the second floor. I tasted blood. I guess it’s true what they say. First your body goes, then your face.

“Ashoka!” they called to me. Oh, I meowed right back.

I’m sure I looked a mess. Thank god there wasn’t a mirror around. They broke the lock off the door:

The painter who found me was happy too.

His reward was 6,000 rupees: $92 dollars. Two months salary! (But I am worth far more. The lost French Bulldog puppy in our old neighborhood was listed for $500). The painter quit  and ran off to his village with the money. This is why the valets are still down there, arms outstretched, hoping I’ll fall out the window again.

I was whisked into a rickshaw, bumpety bump, to the vet. She said my leg would be fine, but I needed stitches. Worried I would go nuts, she wanted to knock me out. My humans wouldn’t have that. Because I’m not only gorgeous, I’m a very nice guy.

“He’s a very nice cat,” remarked the surprised vet. 

A few hours later we rickshawed back home, bumpety bump.

There’s only one good thing that came out of this. My humans have let me switch rooms.

Ashoka The Cat

An American-born Bengal cat living in India

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