KOCHI: For city dwellers, the quaint sight of a quiet neighbourhood carpeted with fallen foliage is a sight as startling as it is delightful. Amid the polluted streets and unkempt cities, how often do we train our eyes on the benevolent tree? Aswathi Jerome does just that and she is more than happy to acquaint us with the myriad species of trees and shrubs that dot the streets of Kochi through her Instagram handle @treesofcochin.
A freelance communication consultant, this Kochi native’s fascination with trees sprouted a little over two years ago with a hashtag challenge on Instagram. Today, Aswathi associates streets with the trees found in the vicinity. “Right after the deluge of 2018, I came across #50trees on Instagram, which was about clicking pictures of trees and posting them.
I must have captured around 100 photos between August and December that year. It quickly evolved into a deep interest to know more about its phenology. I found myself becoming more aware of the trees on the roadside. Hence, I decided to start ‘Trees of Cochin’. People do food and book reviews. So I figured why not tree reviews!” quips Aswathi.
“Though Fort Kochi is known for its famed raintrees, the city has so much more to offer with regard to trees. I identify French Toast in Panampilly Nagar with the African tulip tree in front of it, Edappally bypass with the cassia trees and the bustling Ravipuram with the almond trees, planted along the stretch. In fact, I found that almond trees can be found in abundance across the city,” adds Aswathi, who also has a blog and a newsletter.
In the captions that accompany the pictures, Aswathi weaves her subject to the history of the city and its various landmarks. The facts are interspersed with her own memories or those of the people she knows. Sometimes, it is about forgotten lanes or unique anecdotes. In her own words, Aswathi is attempting to investigate how trees have come to be live fixtures of Kochi’s landscape.
She leaves through articles, books and botany-centred apps to gain knowledge and even strikes up conversations with security guards and street vendors to find more about trees. “A few months ago, I was in Pallimukku. I noticed a huge tree in front of the HSBC Bank there. I was intrigued and was examining it. The security guard came over to ask me what I was doing. I said I wanted to know what the tree was called. To my surprise, the guard knew all about it. He probably never thought about the tree actively but since he sits by it everyday, his mind registered the information subconsciously,” she says.