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Wild & Domestic

A colleague of mine exports exotic tropical fish.

I was under the impression that the pet business (I would include plants in this) is an industrial one. I never considered the stuff they sell in nurseries and pet stores to be naturally available. So, it was a surprise when he told me that the fish are caught from wild, packed in oxygen rich water and exported by air.

He told me that the fish called “sky eye” (direct translation from Malayalam. I have no clue on the English name) have good demand. This tiny fish used to be abundant in our streams and rice paddies. They have silver body and a golden brown back. A silvery spot is there on the forehead, leading to the name. Every body of water in our village used to have plenty of them. With the pollution, and reclamation of water bodies, I don’t see them much anymore. Anyway, my friend sends his army of catchers around to get them, for the rich kids to flush down the toilet.

There are lots of other species that have demand as pets. Same is the case with plants. I noticed a lot of them grow wild in our land. The pure white Hibiscus used to be abundant in our village. It was sought, not as a garden plant, but as a hair tonic (thaaLi, in our language), especially for women postpartum. No one grew it in garden. One day when I came back from work, my wife proudly shown me a new addition. A pure white Hibiscus in a brand new pot. She bought it from a street hawker. I told her the whole story of it being a hair tonic etc.

She didn’t take it well.

The plant Lantana Camara (red sage, kongngiNi in our language) is also seen wild. I read that it originated from Latin America, but they were abundant in our village. Not sure how it came there. It was a major contributor to the flower pattern we make for Onam. Now, I see a lots of varieties, including the wild Red/Orange variety, in the nurseries.

In our village, we have a native orchid found on big trees, such as Jackfruit and Teak. We always considered it as a pest. But occasionally they would put out a magnificent pink blossom, but no one really appreciated that fact. I am sure, today if I can find one and make cuttings, I can get at least Rs 500 per cutting for that plant. I looked for them when I visited my native home, but apparently they are no longer around.

You city dweller! Keep your eyes open when you get a chance to go back to your native place. There will be plants around that you could get for free, grow them in your balcony, and wow your friends.

And if you are the industrious kind, make some money out of it too, but the most important fact is that you maybe saving that species from extinction.

A kind contribution from Dileep Kumar for Housedelic.