That time Deb Dana was attacked by a monkey

I would like to tell you about the time I was attacked by a monkey.

It was mid-April in 2007, and I was in India as part of my job working as a field producer for the PBS Nightly Business Report. I had traveled abroad, along with my bureau chief and our trusty videographer, for a series and special we were producing on the Indian economy. For two weeks, we trekked around the country, from Delhi to Bangalore to Mumbai, interviewing everyone from slum dwellers to the CEO of Infosys.

The trip was amazing — and thoroughly exhausting. We were constantly on the go, running around in the Indian heat while we tried to grab more video, more sound bites, more color for our stories. One moment I’d be standing next to a hip-height pile of cow dung, and the next I’d be walking into the local Microsoft headquarters. After getting a touch of the so-called Delhi Belly, I had to sit in a car for four hours while we drove to Agra for a story on education. Let me tell you, that drive was an adventure in more ways than one.

But finally, we reached the end of our two-week trip, and we had our first day off in 14 days. In my mind, I envisioned myself checking into the hotel spa for the day, but my boss had other ideas.

“We have to visit the Elephanta Caves,” he said. “They’re supposed to be amazing.”

When your boss says you have to see something…you have to see something. So off we went to Elephanta Island, to see the ancient carved caves.

We took a ferry from the Mumbai harbor to the island, and as soon as we stepped off the boat, I noticed we had company.

There were monkeys everywhere. As someone who’d never seen an exotic animal up close, I loved it. I was interacting with nature! I was being “worldly”!

I should have known what was coming. One of the first monkeys I saw was a baby. As I cooed and whipped out my camera for a photo, he proceeded to spread his legs and take a leak. Nice, Curious George. Real nice.

I should have understood right there and then that these monkeys were not my friends. But I saw one drinking a Diet Coke and thought, “See? These monkeys love America! They will love me, too!” They did not.

We set out on a hike around the island, visiting cave after cave, as the sweat dripped down my back in increasingly thick rivers. The temperature was about 90 degrees that day, but combined with humidity levels that — I swear — must have neared 100 percent, it felt as if it were 150 degrees. I was sweating from places I didn’t even know I could sweat. By the time we reached the third cave, I didn’t so much have “sweat spots” as I had “dry spots” because at that point, I was basically completely drenched. Yes: it was gross.

In the middle of touring another cave, I told my boss I was going to step outside for some fresh air and a snack. What I really wanted was a gallon of lemonade, but all I had in my bag was a Kashi bar. So I wandered outside the cave and down a dirt path, and once I’d found a shady spot, I reached into my backpack and pulled out my Kashi bar. As I slowly peeled away the foil wrapper, I heard my boss’ voice call to me in the distance.

“Dana! Look ouuuuuut!”

As I slowly turned around — and I should note, in my memory, this always happens in slow motion with appropriately dramatic music in the background — I noticed a large monkey charging at me.

I froze. I didn’t move, I didn’t scream, I didn’t say a word. I just stood there with the Kashi bar in my hand, as the monkey ran toward me and proceeded to latch himself onto me and climb up my leg, as if my body were a tree trunk.

Not knowing what to do, I threw the granola bar as far away from me as possible, figuring the monkey wanted to eat my snack, not to murder me (I’m still not convinced on the latter). He let go of my leg and chased the granola bar and then, like a big jerk, sauntered back over to me and proceeded to eat my entire granola bar a mere few feet away, as if to say, “Oh, snap — look who’s eating a delicious bar made with Seven Whole Grains and Sesame. Who’s the chimp now, sucker?”













So, for the average traveler to India, do I recommend the Elephanta Caves? Assuming it’s not 5,000 degrees, sure. But if you get hungry for a nosh, you might want to think twice about sating your appetite. And if you happen to see this guy ^ ? Tell him he owes me a freaking Kashi bar.

18 Replies to “That time Deb Dana was attacked by a monkey”

  1. You are brave! Or you feign brave very well and I love your sense of adventure. My adventurous day is a going to a Walmart I’ve never been to before.

    1. These days, our adventurous days sound pretty similar ;-). And trust me, as I watched that monkey eat my granola bar, all I could think was, “I should have checked into the spa.”

    2. Going to a Walmart is a very dangerous undertaking. Did you hear about the guy who was bitten by a rattlesnake in a Walmart garden department? Yep. He thought it was a stick. Not so much.

      1. I don’t touch sticks in Walmart. I’m safe. Plus, where else in the world can you feel welcome in your worst clothes with no make-up? I don’t even think they let you in with make-up on. It’s my refuge. And I know I’ll never see anyone I know there. 🙂

    1. I have to give my boss credit for those last two. I took all the others, but I think I was in too much of a state of shock to photograph my attacker. When we got back, he gave me a framed copy of that last one. That furry face still haunts me… 😉

  2. This -> “Oh, snap — look who’s eating a delicious bar made with Seven Whole Grains and Sesame. Who’s the chimp now, sucker?” made me spit out tea.
    Thank you for sharing, Dana. We have a game-park-type animal attraction near us where you drive your car through and the monkeys (looking very much like the evil creatures above) jump on your vehicle and rip off your mirrors and antennae and then sit on your hood, mooning you most cheekily. They’re mean little suckers and I would not want to run across them in a darkened alley. Kudos to you for surviving. This week is feeding my nightmares. I’m scared to see what else is in store.

    1. They ARE mean! I kid you not — about three weeks after we got back to the States, a story broke that an Indian government minister was on his terrace and was attacked by a pack of monkeys and DIED. The monkeys basically pushed him toward the terrace railing, and he fell over. They are evil.

  3. I’m with Joanne – this made me come VERY Close to spitting coffee on my keyboard – and I only avoided it because I learned my lesson yesterday with Kerry and the snail. What a hilarious story. It wouldn’t have been at the time, but those photos are classic.

    I love the way we’ve all got funny-surprises-that-weren’t-so-much-at-the-time. I’m afraid my Thursday story is tame by comparison, though it does have a peeping tom so maybe that counts!

  4. I was sniggering happily over this at 5:30 am, so you know it’s funny. Not awake enough to remember to comment, apparently! Homicidal ninja monkeys really ought to figure in somebody’s upcoming novel. Scary little beasties for sure!

  5. Haha, Dana, that was quite an adventure. I’ve had my own run-ins with monkeys in India, but the best story is from a friend of my husband’s. A monkey pick pocketed his wallet. And then he tried to actually report it to the cops. And they indulged him and wrote a police report, but alas, that sucker was gone for good.

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