Guess Who’s Eating Solids Now?

This photograph is 18 months in the making.  It’s my first, and only capture of the descendants of Hanuman who frequent this patch of paradise.  Since it’s not National Geographic quality, and there’s only the one shot, I’ll need to tell you a little about ‘my’ monkeys, and how I  managed to steal into this mother’s life for one brief moment.

The group is not resident –  they don’t live on my roof, or in the mango trees, or the cinnamon tree on my property, nor in the trees, palms or roofs of my neighbours’ houses – rather, our roofs, trees and fences form part of their terrestrial ‘long paddock‘.  My sweet, delicious mangos are a firm favourite, and so too the tiny berries of the cinnamon tree, the lone remnant of the Fonseka plantation that once  sprawled across this ridge above the swampy land that is now the Parliament precinct.

In the mornings, the big male swings by, his otherworldly whoop announcing the imminent arrival of the entire troupe.  They might tarry a while in the cinnamon, picking with extraordinary dexterity the tiny greeny/mustard berries which decorate candelabra clusters at the end of the old tree’s branches.  Depending on the season, our monkeys can choose from a plethora of  fruit, flowers and leaves awaiting them in the gardens of my neighbours.  There are mangoes, of course, and many varieties of banana, huge hoary jak, and scaly custard apple, sour ambarella (beloved by humans as a tangy curry, or as an appetizer, with lots of chilli and salt), medicinal belli,  pretty pink juicy jambu, fragrant guava, and many other delights I have yet to identify.

Grey langurs are shy creatures, and ‘mine’ are wild animals, leery of people, ever watchful for danger.  In the time I have been here, I have only twice, now, met the gaze of one of my simian visitors.  Camera always at the ready here on the desk, I have crept forward on silent feet to get a shot as someone sits, fleetingly in the mango tree outside my bedroom window, or plucking berries from the cinnamon candelabras above the garage.  It’s as though they sense my presence, rather than see me, for I have only occasionally ever seen them clearly.  Twice, though, the old male has come down to drink from the lily pot on my bedroom terrace, springing silently from the mango to the wall, and climbing warily onto the chair – placed just there, the better to watch the tiny mosquito catchers darting about under the safety of the lily pads.  The first time he came, I’d barely risen from my chair before be sprang up, turned in midair and leapt for the safety of the mango, and thence the roof.  The second time, I’d crept as far as the bedroom door before he lifted his head.  Water dripping from his ruff, he regarded me closely before turning, and seemingly dematerialized, so fluid was his escape.  Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was standing at the little window in my bathroom, admiring the garden below.  I could hear a monkey coming my way from the trees next door.  Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed movement as a grey shape landed in the coconut palm beside the fence.  I lost sight of it until it reappeared on a frond of the tree, a banana held aloft in its right hand, a baby strapped to her belly, and proceeded to walk on three hands down the dipping frond, and thence along the fence, before  leaping up to my neighbour’s roof,  and hiding under an overhang.  Maybe because she had her back to me, I was able to slip out to the desk, grab and  load the camera and return to my position by the window.  Slowly, she emerged from the shadows and sat under the custard apple tree, peeling away the crisp, unripe skin from the banana with her lips.  I could barely breath as I aimed the camera, missing the instant when she motioned the infant to take the fruit from her hand – but the camera caught it, and the sound of the shutter reminded  her of my presence.  It seemed a simultaneous movement of baby re-attaching itself, and the mother looking up to regard me.  The next moment, she was gone, over the roof and into the trees beyond.

Strange, they haven’t been back today.  It’s as though they fear I’ve captured her spirit, as some tribespeople do.

Without further ado, I present to you:  young Hanuman, now on solids.

Related articles:  Guess Who Came to Eat Custard Apples?

45 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Eating Solids Now?

    • They say it doesn’t sell. That we somehow need to hear about the distress of others in order to feel better about ourselves … Don’t get me started! Then again, perhaps I’m just a Pollyanna:(

    • It is, JM! I’m only sad that I’ve been inclined not to see it all the time, lately – a situation I set out to rectify just the other day, and voila!. a monkey stopped long enough to look at me. 🙂

    • Oh Maggie, it is indeed exotic here in Paradise, but monkey encounters don’t happen every day, as you can see, and it’s exotic, from my perspective, in your part of the world too. We were talking about that just yesterday, apropos the ten minute challenges. I’m sure there’s lots more than greedy seagulls around your place – and come to think of it, what’s the matter with seagulls anyway?

        • Monkeys do that too, Maggie, and pee! The other day I looked out and there was a fellow sitting on the fence, it’s tail hanging down like a long piece of rope, and beyond it continued a dark trail, all the way to the ground!

          But yes, I have to agree, from where we come, monkeys win out over seagulls …

  1. So cool so cool so cool! George says it so well. Your storytelling is superb, and had me on the edge of my seat. Your description is vivid, and I’m so glad you got the photo!

    • I feel lucky to have such a good aide memoir of those few moments, should time blunt my memory of my breathless enchantment. The privilege is in their being absolutely wild, and yet almost accessible. I’m glad you enjoyed the description, Naomi.:)

    • You”re right – I should start a fruit and vegetable collection. The custard apples aren’t quite ripe yet Viv – even the monkeys aren’t interested in them yet! I’ll keep my eyes out in a few weeks. Can I interest you in a perfect avocado for tomorrow?

  2. This is wonderful! It is so frustrating trying to get a photo of wildlife and you need to be patience – but you were rewarded! Very exciting. Your gardens sound so well fruited – we have custard apple and of course mangoes too. Thanks for this precious photo!

    • It’s a nice thing here. Even the most sophisticated urban chic gardens have fruiting trees and plants – as is still the case in every village home. You know, you take a branch, cut off most of the foliage, stick it in the ground, and voila! – it strikes and fruits. The fecundity of the place is amazing.

      • Wow! 20! That is amazing! Lake Superior was wonderful!!!! Took 400 pics in only 3 days. So serene. I just love being outside in nature. Ahhhh…. You must really love Sri Lanka. have you lived anywhere else exotic?

        • 400 pix in 3 days?!? When did you get time to do anything else, Nicole?

          I thought it was pretty exotic, living in London, at the time, and I can’t tell you how spellbound I was by winter, when I first went to Canada to live (though that particular spell wore off pretty quickly, except perhaps after a particularly wicked blizzard, or a breathtakingly quiet morning after, with the sky as bright as bright can be, the snow piled high and sparkling – that was till I put my face to the sun and couldn’t find it!). But no, I’ve never lived anywhere else like this, though I did spent lots of time in Bali in the early days.

  3. the moment captured perfectly … i did not imagine they would be so shy and quick to escape, although i once photographed a grey langur in bhutan in the forest who also vanished … your tale is spellbinding and i agree with the idea of showing us your exotic fruit …. so much to so and so little time in paradise!

    • There sure is so much to show, Christine. Perhaps it’s time I got serious about capturing it. Will add fruit to my collections, that will be a start!

      I was surprised too, at how shy they were. I suppose that’s because the smaller, ‘red’ macaque is such a rascally cohabiter, where they live. Luckily we don’t have them here in Colombo – yet. It’s probably only a matter of time, as urban sprawl and density rises the langur’s habitat will shrink leaving a vacuum for the aggressive little macaques.

      A few passed through this morning, but didn’t stay to feed. Perhaps I’ll be forgiven in a few days:)

    • The entire episode – thanks to the picture and the post – can go into my perpetual memory as magical! Triumphant, I think was the overriding emotion! As I said, I missed the actual moment, concentrating so hard on keeping the camera aimed at them, holding my breath so it didn’t shake … :).

      I’m becoming afraid of losing my memories, so I’m liking this diary-type of post, recording everything while it’s still fresh in my memory, the detail sharp.

  4. Pingback: Guess Who Came to Eat Custard Apples? « The Wanderlust Gene

  5. Great post & photo, and way to keep the moment forever. One of the many booms of blogging. I was sidetracked by the thought & desire for the fruits etc you were describing and thought bugger the monkeys, I’d love to be there myself 😉

    • I can see it, Ella!

      Poor monkeys. This morning they’ve been raiding someone’s ripening bananas, or something, just a little further down the hill, and every now and again we’re all startled by the sudden explosion of a firecracker! Maggie must have been up to no good this last time because she came running, tail between her legs, to cower against my legs under the sheltering desk:)

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