Meet my fish

Sourav Sarangi, Kolkata

Around 2005, I was shooting a fiction and I needed an aquarium full of fishes. The shoot went well and I shouted “pack up”. A flurry of activities followed at midnight. My job was done and I stood alone outside the floor. Suddenly a production boy came and threw all the fishes on ground. “What are you doing brother?” I shrieked. “Their job is done, Sir. We hired the big aquarium that must be returned, but without fishes”. That’s how I had a small aquarium at home with those same fishes who ‘acted’ in my film.

All are dead now except this one. She shares my sorrows and ecstasies. She gives me company in difficult times. She can appreciate good music. She has gone blind but can sense my presence, specially when I return after a long trip. Don’t ask me how but its true.

Her food is almost finished. I went to the local shop in the food market full of edible fishes, chickens, groceries ready for us. But no bird or fish feed. “Not an essential commodity that can be sold during lock down, I cannot get the supply”, explained the owner.

I am rationing her food. She is very very old, losing weight but still dancing when I play music. She is very fond of Beethoven symphony 7 and Mian ki Malhar by Dagar sahib. I find it difficult to swallow my meals bought from the same market sometimes. We are humans, the most advanced species in the animal planet.

Her name is Chelo. I am only communicating on her behalf.

She has seen many deaths of near and dear ones in her life. But since I have decided not to get any more fish for my aquarium, she will see no more death in water. I think she knows that.

But outside? She is concerned. “Ok, we are just fishes with very little brain, you can forget about our food before declaring a lock down but what about those thousands of migrant workers who would be jobless and forced to starve?”

In the silence that followed I could read her mind. Yes, many times I ignored her, almost forgot her existence living in the same house, yes… I was too busy editing, writing, reading… excuses are too many to realize that somedays she starved because of me.

“But I never complained, I watched you so busy and thought its okay fasting for a day. Though its horrible to eat ones own shit… Now, whats wrong with you? Look at me, chin up, play that music of that composer who went deaf. Come on…”

Friends, never neglect the dear ones at home. It took a virus and a month to realize that for me. In good times she enjoys a bit of rum, only Old Monk. That keeps the virus and bacteria away from her.

Three cheers from Chelo.

Sourav Sarangi is one of the most revered documentary filmmakers of India. “Bilal” and “Char… The No-Man’s Island” are amongst his highly acclaimed films. His films have been screened in film festivals worldwide and have won several prestigious awards.

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