A fishy tale

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By 2017-12-03

By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
Ceylon Today Features

What fun it is to have pets. They make such great company. Having one is such a stress buster. You talk to them, train them to do stuff, play with them, bond with them and share your life with them. Pets in turn make that shared life into a life worthy of living, a blissful one, a one that is not boring.

Or so I have heard. I would have known for sure but despite all my love for pets, I have been deprived of the opportunity to have one because of my Dad's rules. His argument is that animals are wild and they belong in the wild, where they are most comfortable in. Humans on the other hand are civilized and are best left in houses. The real reason behind the restriction was that he was bitten, quite violently, by a rabid dog when he was a kid. The whole incident and the course of injections around the belly button that followed sure must have been nothing short of a major traumatic experience but how is that my problem? Who goes around kicking dogs who are minding their own business? If the story I've heard is any true, my Dad did as a kid!

This begs the question. Who is the 'crazy' one? The dog or the boy who kicks it? The question remains but anyhow, it ended up costing me the opportunity of having a dog or a cat as a pet. I love cats a lot but if I had to choose, I'd like to think of me as a dog-person. Sadly, I couldn't be either of a person and the closest I got was being a 'fish-person.'

Cats or dogs were out of the question but I somehow managed to get the green light for pet fish. If you really think about it, maintaining a fish tank costs a lot and there was no way my Dad was going to fund it so I had to improvise. Ornamental fish cost a pretty penny so I opted for a cheaper option; Platy fish. A used jam jar was my make shift fish tank and my pocket money only went to buy the fish and gravel for the 'tank' as well as the small aqua plant.

My mini aquarium was complete. Mind you this was ages ago when I was just thirteen. I kept the jar/aquarium on my study table, near the window. Fearing a bird would come through and snatch my fish, I moved the jar away from the window. First I only had one platy but I immediately added another to keep it company. To this day I have no idea whether they were males or females but both had to be of the same gender as the duo never reproduced.

Platy buddies were not much as play mates but made such good study mates. Whenever I was bored while studying I could always count on them to provide me with simple entertainment. On most nights I left the table lamp on so that the fishes were not in the dark but soon got scolded for doing so. Whenever I was feeding them, I would always over do it by putting way too much fish food. The jar had a limited amount of water and too much food spoiled it quite often.

I had to clean the jar and change the water as quite often as three or four times a week but it was not much of a hassle. I would take the jar to the sink, put the fishes in a cup, empty the jar, fill it up again and put the fish back in. After a month or so it became so routine I could have done it with my eyes closed.

One day, I was cleaning out the jar as usual and noticed only when I was about to put the fish back in that one of them was missing. It must have jumped out of the dish it was temporarily in and would have fallen into the sink. Heart-broken I put the single fish back in and to add more misery to my woes, the solitary fish too didn't last long. I came back home after school one day only to witness the lifeless body of the lonely fish floating in the jar. Mom speculated it must have been some kind of a germ infection in the water that must have killed it but I was adamant the killer was loneliness.

The whole incident gave added impetus for my Dad's anti-pet policy. Well, my pet story is not a happy one but all hopes are not totally lost for me. My Dad, as stern as he is with us, has a soft spot - my little sister. Just like me, she too is crazy about pets. The rule applies to her as well but I have this feeling that her cuteness is about to break Dad anytime now. Hopefully, my next pet story won't be as gloomy as my fish story!

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