When we shifted our base from Hyderabad to Mumbai, my wife and kids had to continue in Hyderabad to complete the academic years, especially, for my son’s as he was in 10th standard. My parents, then already retired, decided to join me in Mumbai, to make my life easy. Once, during that year, we had a day trip to Matheran (a little hill station, just 90 km off Mumbai). We started early in the morning and drove down. Matheran is known for its strict prohibition against using automobiles in the town. The only form of automobile allowed in Matheran is an ambulance operated by the Municipality. The best transport option there is horse-riding.

We parked our car outside the municipal limits and hired horses for ourselves and ventured into the wilderness. My mother had the lunch packed for us, so that we don’t have to eat out. Around late afternoon we located a picturesque place near a lake and decided to have our lunch break. We laid down our picnic mats and settled down. Exertion of horse riding and possibly the effect of clean air that we were breathing, we were very hungry.  The food was unpacked and served into the plates and the moment of savoring it came, well not yet! All the three of us were staring at each other and confirming if we were witnessing the same thing. From God knows where, a large troop of monkeys had come there and was slowly closing on us. It was for sure their dining area albeit with new waiters and different food. The instinctive shooing seemed to not help. Also, there was not just one mouth to throw some food at and get by. We were, for sure, outnumbered by the attacking party. More than saving our food we were now worried about saving ourselves.

My mother was the first to come out of the frozen state. She started chanting Hanuman Chalisa prayer and we joined her the very moment. The magic started soon after the first few verses, itself. The troop started backtracking and before even we completed the prayer, there was no monkey in sight. I am as much an atheist as much a science can make one, but what happened in front of me was magic. It has never been easy for me to brush off this as a happy coincidence. One thing is for sure, whether you are atheist or agnostic, there is no harm in keeping a couple of prayers up your sleeves! Oh, we had good rest of the picnic.

For readers farther from India: Hanuman Chalisa is a prayer in respect of Lord Hanuman, who has a form of monkey. Hanuman Chalisa is the go to prayer when you are scared.