Journal Journeys: Solitude of the Ghats

In Valparai this summer, I went for several walks in the surrounding coffee plantations – in the solitude, there was a quiescence such that I had not known before; it felt wild in a way you cannot find in Singapore, even despite the manicured coffee plants.

One encounter with a Nilgiri langur, one of the Western Ghats endemics in the region, stood out to me.

The branches dance: movement in the tree. There is a black form, jumping from branch to branch; its head turns towards me, perceiving my presence, for the briefest of seconds and then it has leaped down and is running down the hill, across the small valley that lies below.

I want to say to it, come back. Let me see you. But it is bounding up bush and slope with practiced ease, its long tail swaying, and my brain catches up with my heart and I think, Nilgiri langur. A curious thrill rings through me – I am suddenly very aware that here and only here will I get to see this black shadow of the forest, of how fortunate I am to see it now.

It stops on the other side of the valley, on a tree root, and looks back at me, two hundred meters away.

For a long second we, primates separated by eons of evolution and yet only a few mere strands of DNA, stare at each other.

Then the black shadow has disappeared and I let out a heavy breath.

In the distance, a peacock calls mournfully.

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