Something Fishy

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I grew up in a suburban area near the big city of Kolkata, India. Even though the area was not rural, we had several big ponds surrounding our neighborhood, which is unlike any of my friends who grew up in the city. I hear now from my parents that the ponds no longer exist as the area has been claimed by the ever growing concrete jungle. This makes me sad, specially for there were so many anglers in that place.

On our Summer and Winter vacations, me and my little sister would go for walks around those ponds. Often we would find one or two anglers sitting at distance, their fish rods resting beside them with the fish hooks dipped in the water of the pond, smoking a bidi. Interestingly, according to Google bidi is “a small, thin, hand-rolled cigarette imported to the United States, primarily from India and other Southeast Asian countries. They comprise tobacco wrapped in a tendu or temburni leaf (plants native to Asia) and may be secured with a colorful string at one or both ends”. Google makes it sound like such a novelty! Anyways, these ponds would be filled with fish. I don’t think anyone would cultivate fish there, they just had a lot of fish specially charapona. The kakus (uncles in Bengali), as we would call them would have a vessels beside them which would contain fishes that they had caught over the course of the afternoon. Me and my sister would pester them to give us a fish so that we could keep them as pets. The kakus would be so nice and would actually give us a fish to keep.

We would hurry back home, get a vessel and then carry the fish back home. We would wash a huge Horlicks jar and fill it with water and keep the fish there. We would make tiny balls from bread or flour and feed the fish. Some of the fish, confined in a small jar and already injured from the inhumane fish hook, would survive for a week or two, but most would die in a couple of days. Then me and my sister would cry bucket of tears and my parents would have to console us. Growing up, this became a routine. My mom was frustrated with the whole drama and she forbade us to get any more fishes. But we kept doing it over many years.

I distinctly remember one such incident – once again we sisters had convinced one unassuming kaku to give us a tiny little fish that he caught. We were happily carrying the fish, but as soon as we came near our house suddenly it dawned on us how angry our mom would be to find us getting another fish. We were really scared and with our childish aka horrible decision making, we dropped the fish in an open drain (yes India!) near our house, thinking it will swim back to the pond. As soon as we dropped the fish, we noticed that it was having some difficulty navigating the dirty filthy water of the drain. Extremely worried, we decided to pick up the fish and take it home even if mom was furious. Now selfishly, I made my little sister pick up the fish from the drain, even though she was two years younger than me. I know I know I get to hear about this every time we fight on anything, so you don’t have to remind me I was evil. In my defense, I was myself a child.

We got that fish home and got a little scolding from mom, not too much, we were happily sitting at home, staring at the jar for around one or two hours… but every interesting story needs a villain. So while I was making my sister take the fish out of the drain, our house maid was going to fetch something from somewhere. She observed the whole thing. Instead of telling us anything, she came back after two hours and told my mom what had happened and oh! the scolding we got. I remember she actually beat us with rulers 😛 Oh the kids nowadays, they will never know the age when parents actually beat their kids to discipline them!

Our love for pets started with our dad being such a huge animal lover. We are told that as a kid growing up in rural Bihar, he had a mini “zoo” of domestic animals at his house. He had a cow, three dogs, rabbits, parrots and what not. In fact, he encouraged us to get our own “zoo” growing up – we had many cats, a cute dog, several birds and often the baby squirrels that fell down from their nest on the coconut tree right beside our house. And we had these fishes which we brought in from time to time.

As a child I was fascinated with aquariums and there would be ones to get fascinated about; I remember one which had a treasure chest and the lid would open and close with some hydraulic action; the bubbles coming out of the water from a treasure hunt scene with lots of skulls, sunken ships with rusted edges… and the most awesome things were the colorful fishes of different shapes and sizes… the world of aquariums would be so fascinating! I remember of all my father’s brothers I had a favorite uncle, because they had an aquarium at their home. I was intrigued not only by the fishes but also the wiggly live worms, stored in a dark corner under the staircase, that they used to feed the fish.

Even as an adult I was fascinated with fish tanks – I would selectively go to restaurants that have tank displays, I would watch the TV shows Tanked and Fish Tank Kings for hours, I would even go to the pet stores just to look at the fishes (and other cute animals). But interestingly enough, I considered getting dogs and cats but never considered getting a fish tank for a long time – in fact until, I got my pet hamster Montu and saw how enriching being a single pet parent was. It keeps you occupied – you are caring about some small life that depends on you, it makes you responsible, you have reasons to leave work and go back home early, you have something interesting to do all by yourself, and specially in the case of Montu, we had a bond that only we shared.

However, in grad school keeping multiple pets was not really feasible, so even though I toyed with the idea, it never materialized. Then I helped a couple of friends set up their fish tanks and I wanted fish tanks bad. I obsessed over youtube channels on fish keeping – my idea of fishkeeping had advanced so much from Horlicks jars and worm feeds! There was a point when I wanted to grow all live plants in my tank so I researched and researched on that. Seemed too much work but eh! if you want something, you do it right 😉

When Montu died and I was left with her 20 gallon horizontal habitat. I didn’t want to get another hamster, because you get too attached and then they don’t live that long. However, a 20 gallon tank  looked like a lot of responsibility – so far the past one and a half years, I had been considering the idea, dropping it and reconsidering many times. I almost got a smaller tank many times but then held back because the fishes I wanted to get and the plants I wanted to grow are difficult in a small space. So I waited.

This birthday my friends surprised me with a fish tank gift and I knew the time was now. So two months after my birthday I finally set up my fish tank. It was great that my sister was with me over the holidays and we set it up together as a project. The tank is 20 gallons horizontal and it doesn’t have any live plants yet… I will grow them a little slowly, starting with small simple ones… but I already have 10 fishes in there, two of which I introduced just yesterday. So far I have two Red Tuxedo Guppy, four Red WagTail Platy, two Sunburst Platy and two Spotted Cory Cat fish. The guppies were the first one to get in the tank, they are really feisty and make my tank so interesting. The corys are the last ones introduced. I have always wanted to get these since I first laid my eyes on them –  they are not much of a looker to most people, especially to my sister. But they have amazing dog like personalities and are so playful. I also love my platys, they have amazing bright colors and seem like a bunch of really hardy fish. However, I would like to go through a complete nitrogen cycle and water change and check how the fishes are doing.

I can have another ten fishes in my tank and eventually I plan to introduce the fishes I have always wanted, a school of Neon or Cardinal Tetras. That’s specifically why I wanted a 20 gallon horizontal as I’m sure I would just love to see how the school navigates through the length of the tank. I’m so excited about the future of my tank!!!

photo courtesy: Google

 

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Squigglum

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I was going through my Google Photos account when I came across these beautiful photos of my late pet hamster Montu aka Squigglum. These were taken in Summer of 2013. I had lost my camera on my flight while coming back from India. If you want read about my experience then click here.

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So I had rented a DSLR camera from the university to take Montu’s snaps. She was so hard to photograph, I had to take over 80 photos. But she looks so cute in each of them. I just had to share a few 🙂

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Happy Friendship Day

I first started blogging in the year 2009. I had completed my undergrad and was transferred to a new city for my work. It was the first time I was living so far away from my friends and family. One of my most popular initial blogs was the one written on Friendship day in 2009. I remember it was a hot August afternoon, and even though it was a Sunday, the weather of Chennai kept me indoors. I labored an entire day on making the collage (the easy online collage softwares were not available yet or I didn’t know about them) and writing the blog.  However, the worst thing about blogging at your office blog is that once you leave the job you no longer have any access to it. Thankfully I had saved mine in an email because it was so popular and because it had catapulted me into the office blogosphere (as they called it). So here you go… a glimpse of my life from 2009…

Yesterday night the first Friendship text I received was from my mother at 7:30p.m.

Later, I called her up and came to know that she received the text from one of her dearest friends, a colleague of hers, who was under the impression that 01 August is the friendship day.
She told me she sent me the text as it might come handy when I will send Friendship messages to my friends… It was then that it struck me that this is the first time that I’m away from all of my friends… first time that I’m not tying friendship bands on the wrists of anyone…
I remember, when I was in school, there would be frenzy about Friendship Day. For weeks we’d be sitting with different colored threads of wool and making friendship bands for our friends… As we grew up, the wool bands were replaced by more happening friendship bands available in shops… but the excitement surrounding friendship day never diminished. Every year, invariably, my friends and I would forget the exact date for Friendship Day (at that point of time we didn’t yet know that it was the first Sunday of August). So we’d end up celebrating either on 2nd or 6th August. As I write, I wonder why at that point of time it was so difficult for us to remember a date… 

Slowly, the ‘After-School Ice-cream Parties’ were replaced by ‘Get Together’s at CCD, Barista or some happening shopping mall with a decent food court. But the excitement surrounding friendship day never diminished… 

Even in college we had the hell of a time celebrating friendship day… 

Just as I was sinking in this realization, I received an SMS from Airtel. “Any messages you send on 2 Aug, Friendship Day, is going to be charged at Re 0.50/msg”. So the flurry of ‘text activity’ started from yesterday night only! 

It was already 11:30, and I was running against time!! Sending texts to the countless number of friends whose numbers I had saved on my mobile was itself a daunting task… add to that replies, replying back, replies to replying back, and replying back to replies to replying back … and so on 

Over time,

money became trivial to friendship…
sleep was sacrificed for friendship…

But my cell is only a Nokia 1100. It couldn’t understand all these philosophy
It started flashing “No space for new messages” warning. 

I don’t remember when I got back to sleep… but I woke up at 11:45 a.m. with 8 unread messages in my Inbox. (must have deleted some messages before going to sleep) The first thing I did was to call up my dearest friends and then send friendship messages to all the other friends, whose phone numbers I didn’t have, through social networking websites.. Everyone was asking me how will I spend the day… I had a plan… though I can’t meet my friends today, I can cherish the memories of all times spent together… and what better way to do that than watching some old snaps… 

As I was going through the photos an idea struck me! What if I collage all these snaps and send it over to my friends… that way even they would know that I’ve been thinking about them and missing them… So here you get a glimpse of my memories, of my friends.

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Lots of pictures of my mother and my sister, the two pillars, who have taught me the meaning of friendship. The cute dog you see in the picture is my ‘bundle of joy’, my Tashi. Today her soul rests in heavenly abode, but she’ll always be there with me. But my favorite cats and countless other animals I had growing up are missing in these snaps. These lovely creatures have made my world of friendship so colorful.

Lastly, as I miss my old friends, I must admit that I’ve also made loads of new ones in Chennai. I may not tie friendship bands on their wrists, or I may not have loads of snaps to make a collage with… but their picture in etched with care on the Friendship Album inside my heart. Through this blog I wish everyone a very Happy Friendship Day!! Enjoy to the fullest and make loads of memories. All the best!!

P.S. I’m yet to receive the feedback from my friends on this collage… will surely let you know once they come in.. In the mean time I’m banking on your feedback.

Coming back to 2014: I have lived away from my family ever since I moved out in 2009, returning back only for short durations for vacations. I have lost many friendships and at the same time, come across countless new friends. Now I have a whole new theory of friendship than the one I had as a child in school or even as a new adult in 2009 which can be summed up in a singular quote by Jim Morrison, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself“.

So when since Saturday afternoon I started getting a flurry of Friendship day messages from my mother, sister and dearest school friends (the beautiful girls in the snap above), I was reminded of this writeup. As I read through it I decided that I am posting this one here because I realized that no matter how much we grow up the feelings remain the same… Even after so many years we still feel nostalgic about the friendship bands… every August for one day we complain that we are so far away. With the internet and the online text and video chatting facilities the world has become a very connected place, but, at the same time, days like today remind us that these are not enough!

 

Cats: Photos, Volunteering and Adoption

 

It has been a long time since I posted any pictures on my blog – which is surprising since I take a lot of photos everyday, also since that is primarily what I used to post in my blog for a very long time. So today I thought I will post some cat pictures on this website. Firstly, cats are undoubtedly the most popular animal on the internet, so I’m hoping this will bring in a lot of traffic to my blog. Secondly, I volunteer at this amazing place, The Cat House, in Lincoln, NE and they do an awesome job there, so I thought about giving them a little publicity. Finally, I get immense joy from volunteering. It releases my stress, makes me happy, I contribute to the society,  and most importantly, I get to bond with a lot of animals and get a love of love in return. I feel most fulfilled when I have spent a couple of hours there. So here are a few of the photos from the past month.

Me with a cat named Cuddles – absolutely adorable and what a poser! If you plan to take a lot of selfies with your cat then adopt this one 😀

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My room has a new inhabitant – Poof. He has amazing fur coloring and with that lion cut he looks especially exotic! If you don’t cuddle her immediately he comes up to you and demands it… if you  move on to cuddle another cat, he meows from the distance for a while, if you still don’t come over to him, he comes over. What an attention seeker! Very pet-able 😀

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This is Sally, like Poof, she too has a lion cut. I’ve seen her at the Cat House since last year when I first started volunteering. She has a mild skin infection and really picky about her food, I think that’s why she hasn’t got adopted yet, because with her sweet personality there can be no other reason.

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This is my favorite duo – Samual Jr. (got adopted recently) in the background and Daisy in the front. When Daisy came in this room for the first time, she was really shy, would not come out of her corner and hiss at any other cat who would pass by her. But two weeks later she and Sam were the best of buddies. I am sad that they didn’t get adopted together. Daisy is super warm with humans and she loves to get petted. She also headbutts you when she feels loved. She’s extra special and I really love her a lot!

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These are the new kittens on the block – born on 7 April 2014, these are the brother and sister duo Philly and Frannie. They are tiny kittens with lots of fluff, very human friendly and loves to get cuddled. But at the same time really well-mannered. Look how they posed when I asked them to… I fell in love!

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This is another of my favorite pair – mother, River (grey) and son, Sunny (orange). Sunny is really shy and wary of humans. I have been trying really hard to socialize her and have succeeded only a little bit in a few months, but I am not here for long and that kind of worries me. But The Cat House is a great place and I know she’s in good hands. River on the other hand is really sweet, friendly and photogenic and hence very popular on my instagram 🙂

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If you like these pictures then definitely go and check out the website for The Cat House. it is an amazing place. I have volunteered at other shelters before, but this is different from any of them. It’s a complete no-kill shelter; and once they take one in, if it does not get adopted, the cats are there for life. Unlike other shelters, the cats are not kept separated from each other inside small confinements; instead they match their personality with other cats and put them together in a single room. Each of the volunteers are assigned one room so that they really get to bond with all the cats in that room, and can spot if they are sick or not behaving normally for any reason. Often they try to get bonded pairs of cats to get adopted together. For example, the room i am assigned to had 6 cats and recently two of them – Mr. Ink and Samual Jr. got adopted together. Also all the cats pictured in this blog are available for adoption right now.

If you are looking for a cat I would suggest that at first you look at the shelters in town which does not have a no-kill policy, because these are the cats with the highest risk of getting euthanized. If you don’t find your cat there then you should look into places like these as you know that even if no one adopts them, they will be taken care for life. But personally I believe you should never compromise with the type and breed of pet you want just to be able to adopt from a certain place. If you are not happy eternally with your choice you might eventually end in returning the animal to the shelter once again. I have volunteered for only a couple of years and still I have seen that happen more number of times than you want. But adopting is a noble act as no matter what you are saving one life so I will always encourage adopting over anything else. Sometimes if the shelters does not have what you are looking for immediately when you are ready, you can wait a few weeks or months to see if that kind of animal becomes available.

Another thing I would like to point out, about adopting cats, is that it is always better to adopt an adult cat than small kittens. The adult cats have well-defined personalities, so you can pick one up that suits your requirements –  a cuddle buddy, an explorer, a love bug or a personal assistant! In fact, another place I volunteered at (Capital Humane Society) has a well-defined scientific cat classifier that you might be interested in checking out. Also most of the times adult cats are litter-trained and a great deal is already known about their activity levels, sociability and health. These information are always useful, especially for first time pet owners or for people who already have other animals at home.

Finally, whether you adopt from a kill shelter or a no-kill shelter you still open up place for another animal. So before you go buy animals, please consider adoption.

My Pet Hamster

If any of you have seen my Room Sneak Peek post then you have met my little buddy, my pet satin cream syrian hamster Squigglum. She is the cutest most adorable pet ever. This is for the first time ever that I am owning a hamster as a pet, and she is so low maintenance, yet so much fun! I have a whole story on how I got her so may be I can blog about that later sometime. But I wanted to let you know that I got her from a local animal shelter where they told me she’s a boy and about 5 months old. She’s definitely not a boy! But I’m not sure about her age. She has been with me for about a month now and has made my life so much better. I recently started blogging about her on YouTube. I only have a few videos and if anyone is interested you can click myHamsterBlog to find out more! Here’s one of her most adorable snaps!!

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Let me know if any of you also have hamsters as pets. And I’m so new to this so any tips or suggestions are welcome. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend 🙂