I watch as the fish surface and swallow their sustenance – tiny pellets of fish food emitting smells that a human nose finds downright repulsive. A kerfuffle of the smallest degree (to a human) originates as a goldfish and a catfish spar over a pellet that dives gently into the water. Surprisingly, the goldfish wins as it inhales the pellet in one graceful gulp. The catfish swims around looking for more as I drop additional pellets of fish food into the aquarium – some of the food find their way into the belly of the catfish. I cannot help but note that the 7 inch-long catfish is quite a bit of an eccentric klutz – with his long moustache and striped body, you can almost always find him swimming around the tank frantically like he’s lost his bow-tie or his favourite monocle. The goldfish, on the other hand, is more supine and prefers to keep his exercise minimal and conveniently times it during his meals when he swims to the surface to get his pick of the pellets.
Goldfish look pretty but they are bottomless pits when it comes to food. They eat till there is no more no matter if they’re hungry or not. I could understand the nervousness of the catfish – imagine if you had to live with a room-mate who constantly ate everything in sight! So I usually made sure that Mr. Catfish got enough food.
Mr. Catfish and Goldie, the goldfish, along with a school of little guppies, live in a 3-feet long aquarium kept at one end of our living room. As night falls, I turn off the little bulb over the fish tank and head over to my room which is adjacent to the living room and get ready to go to bed. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. A beautiful and pleasant sleep ensues as I dream of nothing.
Thud. Silence. Thud.
I awake with a start. What was that noise? I wait for the sound again. I glance at the clock on the wall with its radiant hands reading 3:15 a.m.
“Probably imagined it,” I mumble to myself as I pull the covers over my head and try to go back to sleep.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
It was unmistakeable. There was an actual sound. I get up and peek slowly into the hall. It is pitch dark. Mustering all my courage, I turn on the lights in the hall and glance around. Nothing is out of place. I say a small prayer and go back to bed eagerly. The rest of the night passes without event as I dream of sudden thuds and noises.
I am woken up early in the morning by excited voices in the living room. I glance at the clock, which reads 6:30, as I rush out my room, vaguely remembering the non-events of the night before. I enter the hall just as my grandma carries something gingerly towards the fish tank and puts it inside with a plop – the ‘thing’ then swims away. I am told that the honourable Mr. Catfish had tried to hatch an escape plan the previous night but had marvellously failed and yet had managed to stay alive through the whole ordeal.
In the cold of the night, the whimsical Mr. Catfish had gotten too excited – much too excited for his own good! Nocturnal by nature, Sir Catfish of the Aquarium, had decided to jump like a mini-dolphin. He had been having the time of his life, breaching the surface of the water and feeling the air on his long whiskers and striped body when he accidentally miscalculated his jump and flew right outside the aquarium and into the open arms of the cold, hard, mosaic floor which was devoid of water. He flipped and he flopped all the way to the other end of the hall, as he waited for rescue. After all, what could a fish do early in the morning on the dry floor? And so he waited till the wee watches of the morning and was found by my grandma, an early-riser, who was utterly surprised to find a fish at her feet, lying uncomfortably on the ground – truly a fish out of water! Pardon the pun. Thus the ambitious Mr. Catfish was rescued. Had he lived in ancient England, he would have probably been knighted for his valiant effort. That day, I learnt that certain catfish could survive out of water for a few hours.
Now who would’ve thought that sudden thuds and weird noises in the night meant that your fish was adventurously travelling around the living room in 180 minutes? In retrospect, He almost got away with it if it weren’t for us meddling humans!