The Free Fall

A beautiful morning it was- my usual study troop happily foraging on the heavily laden fig tree, my recorder on and data collection progressing at full swing. In a short while, I spotted another troop of bonnet macaques on the opposite field and I walked towards them at the risk of being greedy for additional potential data points. Boy, did I imagine the other risks that could possibly be!

The troop generally seemed very shy, and the females ran up to the trees immediately after I had approached them, except for one adult male. He sat there on the side of a fence, looking at me. As soon as I came within about three feet from him, very silently, he walked towards me. Sometimes individuals do so out of curiosity, and I did not bother much. I avoided looking directly into his eyes, walked a few steps away to keep our inter-personal spaces roomy enough, when suddenly he jumped. He came as close as the touch my feet, and I decided to move further to the right, noticing hardly that there was no more right side left for me to go. The land there had lunged into a steep slope of about 8 -9 feet into a pond. While skidding on the gravel and sand, I realised that I had nothing at my arms’ length to hold on to. I simply followed my supervisor’s wise advise to let go!

During this ‘free-fall’, and in between the low-pitched calls of Jagadish’s attempt to comfort me, I watched the monkey on the other side of the dike: he looked at me and followed me with his eyes during the entire time that I tumbled down. The moment I hit the ground and scampered out from underneath a heap of dirt, he slowly walked off to his group members.

I was instinctively thankful for the fact that this is a drought-hit year, and the pond did not have much water left in it, and also for the fact that monkeys have not yet learned to laugh-out-loud!