Mumbai, April 23: A Bollywood actress’s scream raised the first alarm as a band of urban guerrillas sneaked into a VIP complex here and caused a kerfuffle, ripping clothes and invading a senior politician’s balcony.
A prompt rescue mission led by rangers beat the intruders back but the attackers got off lightly, with mere “deportation” —to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. After all, they were merely a bunch of monkeys.
The simians could perhaps have avoided even that vanavas had they not crossed the Lakshman Rekha by teasing actress Genelia D’Souza, who also happens to be the daughter-in-law of Union minister and former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh, also an actor, had married in February.
The animals had been monkeying around the western suburbs, harassing people, for the past fortnight. But over the weekend, they forayed into Poorna apartments on Pochkanwala Road and “crossed the limits” this morning, range officer (Mumbai) Sudhir Padwale said.
“As per the complaint we received, a monkey jumped out of a shrub and sat a metre away from Genelia while she and Riteish were walking in the society compound,” Padwale said.
“She was very scared and screamed out loud. The scared monkey ran away. As per guidelines, if animals carry out acts of violence, we have to tranquillise them and take them away for treatment. But in this case, since there was nothing like that, we only deported the herd.”
Mumbai, India’s only metropolis with its own range office, keeps its foresters on their toes. Today, the forest guards were shooing monkeys off Pochkanwala Road, a quiet avenue on the Worli seaface where the city’s rich and powerful live.
Poorna is home to many VIPs: Deshmukh, BJP leader Gopinath Munde, the late Pramod Mahajan’s wife Rekha, son Rahul and daughter-in-law Dimpy, former police commissioner R.D. Tyagi... the list is long.
The forest office received a complaint from the Mundes as well. The monkeys had apparently stolen, eaten and destroyed a sack of potatoes kept on their balcony. They had also torn up clothes drying on the Tyagis’ clothesline.
“It was too much of a nuisance. We had to act,” Padwale said.
Asked why they had not acted so far when the monkeys were troubling ordinary citizens, he explained: “We do not have trained monkey catchers in our team. We have to hire them. The gypsies who get monkeys to perform acts on the Juhu beach help us catch monkeys at the rate of Rs 2,500 per monkey.”
Padwale added: “We cannot pay them out of our own pockets. If people agree to pay up, we can arrange to get the gypsies. People at Poorna apartments paid Rs 22,500 (the fee for catching nine monkeys) to the trainers. They are big people. They have money. The payment is made directly to them (the catchers). We do not get anything.”
Yesterday, the foresters had sent a leopard packing home to the national park after the big cat had sauntered into a suburban school on Saturday morning and stayed holed up in the basement for over 20 hours.