We drove a few hours from Kochi to Thattekad, and reached a home stay on the far side of the Periyar river. In the evening we crossed the river for a walk around Thattekad village. From the highway it looked like there was only a rain-forest nearby. Then I saw the little path worn away by regular use. As we followed the path, I realized that this was not a pristine rain-forest; it had been cleared for human use.
The word ecosystem comes to mind as you walk around the village. The network of species is not as dense as it would be inside the protected forest, but you can see it here very easily.
A speckled piculet pecked away at a bare tree: there were clearly insects running up the trunk. I’d never seen a piculet before.
Ants swarmed over tiny yellow flowers which I didn’t recognize. They pollinate the flowers even as they harvest nectar. Elsewhere, a deeper food chain: aphid colonies have taken over a patch of bushes, and ants run up and down them, clipping their wings and harvesting the honey dew which they secrete.
There were flowers which I did not recognize. The one thing which I did was the touch-me-not, familiar from my childhood. Its leaves curl up if you touch them. This was the plant whose name, Mimosa pudica, first introduced me to Latin binomials.
Above us a plum-headed parakeet hung upside down, feeding on tiny fruits. Parakeets disperse seeds widely, and are key players in keeping a forest alive.
As soon as you get away from a city you begin to see the web of life which covers our planet.