Scarves, rugs, and tea boxes -- to be honest I was pretty bored by the whole souvenir shopping experience in India. My travel mates, however, were clearly still enamored with it all. And so it went, as they would feel fabrics, ask questions, and look for bargains while I would simply parlay their interest into a chance to escape the brutal summer heat by standing near a fan. Such was the case at a seemingly nondescript jewelry store in Udaipur, India, until I faintly heard my buddy say he was going to go look at erotic monkey figurines.
Erotic monkey figurines? Needless to say, I headed straight back with him.
We were perusing a narrow store with silver baubles hanging from nearly every square inch of the place staffed by two gregarious natives of Udaipur. The girls bought a couple of bracelets, but my friend became interested in a monkey figurine for his friend after seeing similar items in the standard Indian camel and elephant motifs. "Do you have any monkeys?" he inquired.
"Only erotic ones," the shopkeeper said, grinning slyly.
With that he motioned for us to follow him, and we headed up steep stairs to his perch up above the storefront.
From behind his workman's bench, he proudly pulled out a silver monkey figurine about an inch in height, which, well, there's really no easy way to say this, was grabbing his extraordinarily enlarged penis. The level of detail was breathtaking down to the sheepish grin on the monkey's face. Once we stopped laughing, which, took quite a while, my friend realized that the monkey would make a perfect gift except for one, err, "large" problem: the object of the monkey's affection.
"Can you make him, umm, not erotic," we asked?
After a bit of negotiation, the monkey's fate was sealed: he was about to head under the tweezers and blowtorch for quite an operation. The monkey itself was exactly what my friend was looking for -- it just needed to have a little something removed, and to find a new place for its hands to rest. The jewelry doctor began with the tweezers, prying the monkey's silver hands away from his "Curious George," and managed to place one hand at its side, and the other innocuously behind its knee. We nodded approvingly, and looked at each other knowing that the major incision was about to occur. Despite complete awareness that it was just a tiny silver monkey, I nonetheless turned my head and cringed as the jeweler squeezed on the tiny set of pliers until we heard a distinct "pop."
As I turned back, I saw the monkey statue still had his trademark smile, quite a feat considering what he had just been through.
The jeweler lifted the tiny little figurine above his head as if were a cricket trophy. Like a proud parent, he then shook our hands, very happy with what he had just accomplished. He disappeared for a moment, giving us some quality time with our now non-erotic monkey buddy as we stared out at the bustling marketplace below.
A couple of minutes later, as his son served us some piping hot chai, he again appeared, this time with the removed organ wrapped up in paper and a plastic bag, as a souvenir for my friend. Most people leave Udaipur with beautiful textiles or marble carvings: Instead of a gorgeous shawl, we now had a smiling monkey figure and something that, undoubtedly, once made erotic female monkey figurines everywhere quite happy.
We said our goodbyes to our Indian monkey doctor, and nearly doubled over in laughter as we walked away along the dusty streets, reliving the surgery of moments past. The monkey, now, will live happily ever after on a silver chain around someone's neck. As for the gift-wrapped souvenir for my friend -- well, you'll have to ask him.
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