Safe and sound by Richard Jones

A look at The Wolfpack (M)

wolfBIZARRE as it sounds in these times of instant communication with people anywhere on the planet the Angulo children were confined for 14 years to their New York apartment and had virtually no contact with the outside world.

Their parents had ordered they stay inside their four walls on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with their Peruvian father keeping the door locked and the key in his possession.

Dad Oscar says he was trying to protect his six sons and only daughter from New York’s drugs and crime. Their American mother, Susanne, home-schooled her brood of seven.

On their very rare trips out of the apartment Oscar insisted the children didn’t talk to anyone.

So reclusive was the family that many neighbours even in their own block didn’t know they existed.

“Once we didn’t leave the apartment for a whole year,” says Govinda, one of 22-year-old twins. “After 9/11 (September 2001) New York changed.

“It became much more security conscious and, although we probably didn’t know it, a lot safer.”

So, apart from completing their lessons, how did they retain their sanity?

Oscar had stockpiled a collection of 5000 videos and DVDs. He’d been keen to improve his English so the children shot the videos into the player and learned a lot about American history from movies such as JFK, The China Syndrome and Apocalypse Now.

And with the action thrillers from the collection they’d type out dialogue from movies such as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight (a Batman adventure), dress up and act out scenes in their four-bedroom apartment.

For Batman’s costume they used old yoga mats and cardboard.

And when they eventually get to London and sit on the top deck of a red tour bus four of them immediately recognize world-famous landmarks.

“Here’s the roundabout from National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” one explains. Then adopting Chevy Chase’s father’s accent, another exclaims: “Look, kids. Big Ben. Parliament. The Thames. And the Tower Bridge!”

So how did they all gravitate to the real world? In April 2010 Mukunda, then 15, sneaked out of the apartment and walked the streets wearing a Halloween mask.

He was arrested, taken to a hospital and assigned a therapist. Their father could no longer contain them and soon they went out together, walking everywhere – like ‘a wolfpack’ as their documentary maker christened them – with their waist-length hair blowing in the breeze.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Wolfpack’s Christian names come from their parents’ devotion to the Hare Krishna cause.

So Oscar and Susanne gave their offspring Sanskrit names: the eldest who was their only daughter was called Visnu.

The boys were Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagavan (the oldest male), Krisna and Jagadesh.

Krisna and Jagadesh eventually tossed aside their given names and became Glen and Eddie, respectively.

 

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