Sometime around July last year, Ashu walked to the nearby pond with her friend and came back all excited with a tiny little fish in a plastic cup. My immediate reaction was "Go back and leave the fish back in the pond right now!" But I want Lulu as my pet, Amma, begged Ashu. Any parent out there knows that once the kids have named something, we as well give up. So I put the fish in a flower vase and the doting dad took the girls to a pet shop to buy fish food. Ashu tried to ask me if she can get another fish since Lulu was lonely but I told her she has to choose if she wants me or another fish. And thankfully, she chose me! I had my doubts, to be honest.
In the beginning, I really felt bad about this little fish who was happily swimming in the pond with his family and now swimming in circles in a tiny vase. I even told Ashu how he misses his family and how his dad is looking for him and she should go and put him back in the pond but she rolled her eyes and told me, "This is not a movie, Amma. And its just a fish!" She also went on about how people eat fish and she's only keeping one as a pet! So I kept quiet. Hd cleaned the vase every week and changed the water. We added some pebbles to the vase. Everyday we had to remind Ashu to feed Lulu. ("peru vachiye, soru vachiye" moment*!) Months passed. Lulu survived a few weekends without us. Lulu survived the house move. Lulu stayed at a neighbors for 10 days when we were vacationing in December. And everyday I used to wonder how long does a pond fish so small would live.
Some days I even threatened Ashu that I will take Lulu back to the pond if she is not responsible. Every time she nagged us to buy her a dog, I used to say "You can't even take care of a tiny little fish." Antu used to stand near the fish and talk to him or show him off to her friends and over feed him. Except for feeding him twice a day, most of the time we even forgot his existence. And then eight months later, he died. Yesterday. I gave an involuntary scream when I found him dead and like a chain reaction, Ashu ran away to her room while Antu ran towards the fish. Both of them cried unconsolably and even I was choking a bit. Ashu did nt want to see Lulu again, did nt walk to talk about him or say goodbye. On the other hand, Antu wanted to know how he died, what we are going to do with him and whats going to happen to all the fish food!
We gave him a proper burial outside our apartment. Antu was so sad that she could nt celebrate his first birthday. We called Hd and Antu cried her heart out to him while Ashu refused to talk to him. Antu also broke the news to her grand parents and aunt while Ashu refused to talk to them. "I just don't want to talk about him or remember him because it makes me sad", was her logic. Sigh. Anyway we went about our day and whenever we looked at the empty vase, we went silent. The house was too quiet and I don't know how its even possible. I have always had dogs while growing up and felt incredibly sad when each one of them died. But I never thought the death of a tiny little fish could bring so much sadness.
I talked to the girls about my dogs, how futile life is and how we should enjoy every minute, etc.. and gave them the whole spiel about being nice to each other. A mom has to milk every opportunity with a life lesson, no? Antu of course is one up on me when it comes to milking opportunities. At one vulnerable moment, she asked me in a sad voice, "Can we watch Finding Nemo today, Amma?"
* you named him but did you feed him? (but it rhymes in Tamil! :)