In this hour of universal need, our primate cousins ape us faithfully as ever.
When tennis player K.R. Siddheswaran saw monkeys lined up with the homeless by the roadside at his home outside Salem town, he was intrigued. “I had never seen them earlier,” he remembers wondering.
A local villager then informed him that the monkeys had descended in troupes from Siddharkoil, a pilgrim spot located on a forested hillock nearby. Used to being fed by hundreds of pilgrims to the temple on the hillock, the monkeys were hit hard when the lockdown closed the place. The starving, desperate simians had now come down to the main road to partake of the food distributed to the homeless. In the brewing human crisis, someone had to help the creatures.
Siddheswaran, 29, and two of his friends decided to take fruits and cooked rice along with drinking water up the hillock at noon every day to feed the monkeys and goats. “The moment they saw us with food they came running towards us and started helping themselves to the cut bananas from the basket even before we could spread them evenly. We also filled water in half a dozen drinking bowls,” he says.
Thanks to Siddheswaran, the monkeys had variety in food too--water melon one day, oranges the next and cooked rice on the day after. “There are about 1,500 monkeys and a few goats in that hillock and we were happy that they could be fed at least once a day,” says Siddheswaran, who has ten rescued dogs at his house. Back on level ground, he teams up with three other friends--Vishnu Priya, Krishnamoorthy and Bharanitharan--in feeding stray dogs in Salem town. Their group is part of a statewide initiative called ‘No Food Waste’ which collects excess food during functions and distributes them to the needy and orphanages.