A langur mimic who is Lucknow’s answer to rising monkey menace
Kismat, a 42-year-old monkey handler, possesses a special skill. He mimics langurs and produces sounds that can scare away monkeys. Much in demand due to the rising monkey menace in Lucknow, Kismat earns over ~50,000 monthly for scaring away simians.
He has also trained others on how to deal with monkeys that often bite people and snatch their food.
The railways has hired Kismat to combat the menace at Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station. “Kismat’s voice is really effective and I have seen monkeys running away [because of him]. As he is the only person in the town, who can mimic sounds of langurs, we have no other way to check the monkey menace. He is doing a good job,” said northern railways (Lucknow division) senior divisional commercial manager Jagtosh Shukla.
Kismat began scaring away monkeys for a living in 2013 on his own when he was forced to free his pet langur in a jungle after the Union environment and forest ministry reinstated a ban on keeping capped langurs as they are a protected species. “When the [ban] order was reinstated, I left my pet langur, who had been with me for seven years, into the jungle. I used to scare away monkeys with the help of my langur. After the ban, we had no other means of income,” said Kismat.
He began imitating sounds of langurs to scare away monkeys. “I tried and tried… and after a couple of days of practice, I started imitating the voice. When I produced the sounds near monkeys, they actually worked,” he said.
He found work to scare away monkeys on his own first at the Charbagh Railway station, which is one of the most crowded places in Lucknow with a footfall of 1.25 lakh passengers daily. The railways hired him in 2015. “Cases of monkey bites were very frequent. But the situation began to change after his appointment,” said an officer at Charbagh station.
Kismat began working from 6 am to 6 pm. He gets ~20,100 monthly for scaring away monkeys. He also works at Northern Railway’s Diesel Loco Shed in Lucknow where he draws ~17,000.
Kismat said he started training people because he cannot handle the menace on his own. “I train unemployed people from my madari [monkey handler] community.” He charges ~1,000 to 2,000 for the training.
Kismat said his work is also about keeping his community’s tradition alive. He remembers his late mother Haseeman’s last words: “Do not let the community die”.
Kismat’s brothers— Mohammed Fareed, Kashmira, Noor Muhammed and Sharafat – are also monkey handlers.Kismat lives in Lucknow’s Telibagh along with other members of his community. There are an estimated 300 families of monkey handlers in the city.