Time passed and n happened, and we got given a betta fish in a tiny fishbowl by Priya. She had researched the fish carefully: it was a native of the paddy fields of
Two days after the betta – who n named variously: ‘black-and-white’, ‘spotty’ and ‘swimmy’ – came home, we googled it and found that you should change the water every two or three days to prevent toxicity. With great care and dexterity we transferred it from small bowl to large bowl via a tea cup and an old sieve and it never once popped out and writhed as we were told fish do when you change the water. Yes, well, that done (we nearly sprained out pecs patting ourselves on our backs), we set out for some photo session at n’s school.
Back home an hour later, I looked at the fish, thought there was something odd about it, peered closer and saw that it was belly-up. Of course. The net doesn’t warn you about the chlorine in Mumbai’s water and how you need to pour in a de-chlorinating fluid before you blithely change the fish’s immediate environment.
Calmly I called Amit, who was first sad, then bitter, then devastated – when he heard of the chlorine thingy. That evening he flushed it away mournfully, as I patted his back. For days he lectured us about the pitfalls of having a fish at home; and how he wasn’t worried about himself, but see how it was upsetting ‘everyone’. N registered it in passing, but, typically of someone her age, I think, discussed it only days later when I was asked, ‘Why Swimmy died, amma?’ Before I could think of a suitably deep and yet simple answer, she said, ‘Now Swimmy dead no, so you must get me a pet rabbit.’
Now the grandma has taken it on herself to get a new fish and make it survive, or else. So today – despite parental disapproval – a Golden Gourami has come home. With blue pebbles for company and a packet of dried Red-Sea worms, and a bottle of de-chlorinating fluid. He / she is from the Laotian paddy fields (where there must be no fish left at all), a cousin of our old friend the betta. We are still not sure of the aggression levels (some sites say Gouramis love company; others say they just love to eat company), so the poor sod just has us and the pebbles to look at.