What Do Fish Think?


Fishy thoughts

Fish Thoughts

I love my aquariums, and they sometimes work into my fiction writing process.

I fixed new lights on one of my aquariums yesterday. Watching the fish glow under the LED, slow down and hover because this light makes shadows inside the aquarium, mimicking their natural environment, I began to wonder: what do fish think– what are the thoughts that blink up and light their tiny little minds? Do they think at all? What if we knew their thoughts?

And as any writer knows, ‘What if’s can sometimes lead to great stories.

I went back to look for instances of when my fish have inspired me, and found this old blog post– the writers amongst you might identify with it:

As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.

———

What do Fish think? Have you ever wondered what your pets think about, the cat, your dog, that hamster? Has your pet ever inspired you to create art or stories?

Of death and such


Lalwant Singh, in all his glory

Lalwant Singh, in all his glory

Those who have read my blog before, know I had a betta fish, Lalwant Singh.

Lalwant Singh died last week. At night he came to me for his food, nipped at my finger and all was well. Morning, he was curled up on a leaf, all dead. I guess I can take consolation in the fact that he did not suffer.

But then, what do I know of suffering, and how do I know whether a short suffering is any less hard to bear than a prolonged one? Does a small fish suffer? Does it suffer as much as a human? Is the suffering of the human more evident to me because a human is bigger than a small fish, and the fact that I am a human myself? Each time a fish dies I go through similar hand-wringing and attempts at philosophical acceptance.

I’ve tried not to think of Lalwant Singh the last few days, been sucked into A to Z Challenge, which I’m co-hosting this year, and for which I’m writing fiction like this one.

But even in the fiction, I can’t stop wondering about death, about what one feels when one dies, about suffering in death, about the act of dying. And all this because of a fish.

Writers are crazy. No, let me amend that, I’m crazy. Always have been.

I’ve washed the aquarium clean, run the water again, and am waiting for the water to settle down, so I can bring home a ‘replacement’.

Dead is dead, I know. But then, there is also life, for both fish and human, and the embracing of it– with a complete and acute awareness that death is, and always will be, if not the only, but definitely the most inevitable consequence.

 

What My Angelfish Pair Taught Me About Writing


As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.

In which I navel-gaze and read, then repeat


book reading

Books, books!

The last few days, I’ve been reading. A lot. Which means, besides writing, which I consider my only daily intellectual activity that can’t be skipped, I don’t have time for much else.

So, I haven’t been blogging much. Here’s a list of stuff I’m doing —not that I expect you to be interested, but I like to navel-gaze sometimes, and this is,  after all, My blog :)

1. I’m reading “Sun After Dark” by Pico Iyer. It is the single most spellbinding travel book I’ve read this year, and it is making me restless. I want to go places, and I don’t mean figuratively.

2. I’m reading 7 other books too, and I have to return them to the library by 31st July.

3. Just as if I wasn’t doing enough reading, I’ve begun The Girl with the Pearl Ear ring in Italian.

4. I’m not cooking, happy instead to heat up stuff I cooked last week. (Don’t worry–it is all healthy and unspoilt–so far.)

5. I’m ignoring my pets, and forgot to feed my angelfish and Lalwant Singh yesterday.

6. I’m trying to draft a story and revise several, as well as finish the edits of A to Z stories of Life and Death, all without much success, because I keep going back to reading.

7. I’ve tried to go blog browsing, but for once find myself getting distracted From the internet. You guessed it. Books, again.

8. A friend asked me if I’ve been getting enough sleep. She’s right, I’m not. Yup, reading.

So, apologies all around if I haven’t visiting you guys often enough. It is so rare that I get this kind of focus (and time on my hands) to read, that I’m going all out. Every dictionary should have my pic under the word “crazy”, I know that, but folks, this is so much FUN!

See you on the other side (of my books), and in the meanwhile, Happy Blogging!

And for those who commented on my Angelfish post, here’s a slideshow of the parents with the babies. Unfortunately, none survived, but their short life kept my nose glued to the aquarium.

Angelfish Family!

In which I Apologize to Parents Who (did not) Eat Their Kids


Parents who ate their kids...not!

Black Angel

Remember the time I told you guys about the parents who ate their kids?

You don’t? Here it is again. Read it, go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now that you know what I’m talking about…turns out I owe said parents a public apology.

The pair of  are very much in love, and they’ve laid eggs thrice since then. And yes, the eggs have disappeared each time.

So this time, I had the (brilliant, if I say so myself) idea of plucking the large leaf on which they had laid the eggs and putting it in a mini-floating aquarium. So now the parents could see the eggs, not reach them.

After two days, the first tadpole-tail emerged from one of the eggs. Very soon it became a writhing mass of minute tadpoles attached to the leaf.

Research on the internet revealed that these ‘tadpoles’ will detach themselves in a day or two and become free-swimming. Problem was, my mini aquarium had holes big enough for them to wriggle through and get eaten by the parents.

So, I went to my aquarium shop and got me a ‘breeder net’….feeling all kinds of professional, of course! A breeder, imagine that!

Then came the tricky part of transferring the leaf with the wriggling ‘tadpoles’ from the aquarium to the net, without losing any.

I tried, but despite my feeling of professionalism, I had unfortunately not overcome my clumsiness, and managed to lose a bunch.

A few minutes later, sitting beside the aquarium in utter doldrums (my husband said the net held a few, so look at the bright side, but I’m not naturally gifted with a bright disposition), I noticed some wriggly bits on a leaf.

‘Wow, they managed to land on a leaf!’ I squealed to my husband, who by this time had had enough of me, my fish, and their wriggly bits.

Being the patient man that he is, he came over to have a look, and with slow horror we watched the parents gobble up the wrigglers, one by one.

I wanted to strangle them. My husband went back to watching television, and I went back to aforesaid doldrums.

A few minutes later, one of the parents spat out a stream from its mouth, and lo and behold, there were the wrigglers, back on the leaf! The other parent did the same. Of course I squealed even harder, bringing my irate husband to the aquarium, but this time even he had to smile, the parents sucked up and deposited the young…and were every bit as solicitous as parents ought to be.

I’m no ‘professional’, or I’d have known that when articles mentioned that parents ‘move’ their young, this is what they meant! These parents rescued their kids from certain death by catching them and depositing them on a leaf
when I managed to drop them!

So I went and removed the remaining egg-demolition suspect, the Pleco fish, which I thought was a vegetarian and ate only algae that grew on the glass of my aquarium. Shows how far I have to go in learning about fish.

The wrigglers have survived, both in the net and outside, and the parents are ‘moving’ their kids every now and then.

So, in this rambling, incoherent post, I hereby apologize to my pair of black angelfish (who, of course, don’t have a clue about my entire dilemma).

In the coming days hopefully at least a few of the wrigglers would actually become fry, and some of the fry become angelfish.

And all those things I implied about my fish…monsters, cannibals etc. etc.? I take that all back.

P.S: Just wanted to write an update on the anthology  Stories for Sendai edited by the awesome partnership of J.C. Martin and Michelle Davidson Argyle. The book is now available on Amazon in the print version, and tomorrow it will be released on Kindle! They would like everyone to buy their kindle books on the 30th June, so it can hopefully get some exposure on the bestseller lists. Go buy a book and help a good cause!

 

RIP Kartar Singh


Kartar Singh woke up this morning, did  his usual happy dance, broke his fast of the last 3 days, and made me very happy.

Then in the afternoon, I found him tail up, his head stuck in the pebbles, dead.

I know Kartar Singh was only a betta fish, but I feel his loss.

Time to resort to the lesson I learned the hard way : Sadness at death is proportional to the level of attachment.

Another one, a corollary, one I had forgotten: Never name a fish.

RIP, Kartar Singh. I’ll miss you.

Kartar Singh on Hunger Strike


Kartar Singh has stopped eating.

He swims up to me when I try to feed him, looks at the food, and then looks up at me with his beady eyes, as if to say, What, you think I’m going to eat this crap? You have another think coming!

Kartar Singh the beady Betta Fish

Betta Fish on Hunger strike

I’ve tried all kinds of food good for his kind, but he turns his tail at them, and flashes in indignation. The water parameters are fine so I can only try and imagine what is wrong with him.

I’m told Betta fish are moody, can go for days without food, and given my experience with thoroughly spoilt Bettas before, I’m holding on to that.

Or, our Kartar Singh has figured out the Gandhian way of protest, because the only change in his life so far has been the trip to my study desk... and now that he is back home in his own aquarium, he has taken to sulking behind the leaves.

He’s also ignored the mirror all of yesterday (beware the Betta who ignores the mirror, this indicates he means business). Maybe his charter of demands includes a room with a view of books, and the Singaporean skyline from the window.

I’m tempted to take a picture of the view from my study desk and paste it behind his aquarium. How would he know the difference? He is a fish, after all.

But something tells me that with a name like Kartar Singh, he might be on to me.

Homeless Kartar Singh and the Memory of a Fish


Kartar Singh is homeless again.

I’m the culprit, of course. Lured him into an old jam bottle and poured him into a flower vase.

I needed his home as a quarantine tank, you see. My Zebra Angelfish was getting picked apart by his black cousins, and needed rescue.

So Kartar Singh and his temporary home are on my study desk as I type. And yes, you guessed it. So is the mirror.

Mr Singh is shimmying, sashaying, flashing away at his alter-ego, no sign of missing his pebbled home decorated with plants. He rises up every once in a while to the surface to breathe, comes over to my side, as if to say, isn’t life Fun? and dives right back into his silent squabble.

Oh for the memory of a fish.

If only I could be as much in the moment as Kartar Singh— forget the things I’ve left behind, not carry a trace of past grudges or worries for the future, be happy wherever I’m put, find my obsessions, and enjoy them.

Wouldn’t mind meeting my alter ego in person either.

I meet her often enough when I write, but never more than a glimpse, a shadow of understanding and then I’m back to myself, leaving her far behind.

The Zebra Angel is going back to the shop where I’m hoping he will recover and find another home. Mr. Singh will back in his fancy home by evening, and would have no memory of his trip to my desk.

Kartar Singh, the orange betta fish

Kartar Singh, Homeless and under Alien Attack!

There he is, one very confused Kartar Singh, swimming about amidst the reflection of bookshelves, trying to figure out how on earth could an alien Betta fish be swimming down at him from his roof.

Yes, I’ve covered the vase with the mirror now.

In which Kartar Singh Fights Himself


Kartar Singh, the Betta Fish

Kartar Singh, the Betta Fish

Uncle Kartar Singh fought with everyone. And no, he is not a character out of fiction.

He was our neighbor, and as a five-year-old I remember how his kids could never go out and play on the street with other children their age, because their father had had words (and blows) with almost every male in the neighborhood.

I have a beautiful pale orange Betta fish which reminds me of Uncle Kartar Singh. He hated all the algae-eaters when he was put in my 4-ft aquarium, and wasn’t shy about expressing himself.

And now the quarrelsome fish, all of 2 inches, has a home of his own, a tiny 1ft aquarium, to himself.

He moped throughout yesterday when I put him in, finding no one  to pick a quarrel with.

But today, he is busy fighting with another orange Betta fish. He flares and flashes, feints, rushes up and down, threatens and head-butts the glass wall.

Of course Kartar Singh’s enemy copies him, because I have put a mirror right outside his aquarium.

I’m so tempted to put a Kartar Singh in my book, only I already have a flash piece featuring a Betta fish.

In which I Wonder about Dead Bodies, Lessons


I spent all of today hauling dead bodies.

Ok, not hauling, but picking up.

Right, maybe I’m being a tad over-dramatic? Because the dead in this case are fish.

Tiny, and aptly named mosquito rasboras, the pink-red-black adults grow no more than 3/4 inch.

Quite a few have died since last night, though  the others don’t look sick.

As I picked up each floating, spiraling body from my 4ft aquarium, I wondered how life and death are relative…and if a life is a life, any life.

If a fish’s life is not as important as that of a human, is it merely because in the grand scheme of creation, the death of a human makes a bigger difference than that of a fish? Or any other tiny creature?

I hear that life on our planet would survive very well indeed if humans as a species turned extinct. If, on the other hand, all the bees on our planet dies out, or all the insects, life on our blue ball might be in peril.

So, death.

If my pet dog dies, I’ll be very sad. If a stray dies, not so much. If someone I love/ care for dies, I’ll be devastated. If a stranger on the other side of the world dies, it would be a blip on my screen. If it is a celebrity, I would be sadder. If the stranger is infamous, like Osama, I would be curious, but not really very sad.

So, my reaction to death varies with who/ what dies.

If I loved all the tiny rasboras in my aquarium personally, each death would kill a part of me. Seeing that they are one of many, and I have no particular bond with each of them, I just calmly get up, fish out the dead fish, and flush it.

Sadness at death is proportional to the level of attachment. Lesson learned from the dying/dead fish.

For the time being, the most immediate problem is figuring out what exactly is wrong with my aquarium.

But somewhere, I must squirrel away the lesson at the back of my head. I have lost loved ones before, and will (sadly, but inevitably) lose more. Or I might realise that it is my turn to be lost.

That would be good time to unwrap the lesson, and put it to use. Nothing can make the death of my rasboras worthwhile, but I’ll settle for a lesson.

Such is life. And death.

Death, Lessons, Fish, Life

Death, Lessons, Fish, Life