Thenee and Mari live in the low hills of the Eastern Ghats, a land of snakes and the hunting ground of the Irular people. Their parents and relatives make a living by catching snakes and selling the glossy skins of cobras, pythons, vipers and rat snakes. When the government suddenly bans the snake-skin trade, the Irular lose their main source of livelihood. Termite Fry tells the story of this period of great transformation through three generations of a family-Thenee and Mari, their parents Rani and Karadi, and their grandfather, a great shaman among the Irular.
When the Wildlife Protection Act comes into force soon after the ban, the Irular once again become sought after because they can get special licences to gather and sell forest and animal produce such as snake venom, from which antivenom is made. While the Irular are schooled in the forest and skilled in its ways, they are no match to the various beady-eyed agents and middlemen who have always cheated them on the sale of skins and medicinal plants. Though the forces that shape her community appear to be beyond her control, Thenee is determined to find ways for her people to thrive amidst change.