Summer of 1977, Cardiff. I’m 6 yrs old.
Summer holidays have started. It is the best time of the year. The chill in the air has gone. Days are much longer, warmer and it is greener everywhere. The gardens are full of flowers. You can hear birds chirping throughout the day.
There is so much free time to play in the backyard. The apple tree is full of tiny apples. The huge magnolia tree is pink with big flowers. My mother has tied a temporary swing to a strong branch of the magnolia tree for us to swing on. The red/pink dog-roses are in full bloom and the garden walls are full of moss and something slimy. These are the garden slugs, not a pleasant sight, but we do not disturb them.
On Some Saturdays we go to a nearby park that also has a stream flowing through it. My elder brother loves to fish there. He fishes with a small fish net and a fishing rod. The fish in the stream are very small. So the best way to catch fish is with the fishing net. Bhaiya (elder brother) would catch fish and keep it in a glass jar.
I love to watch the flowing stream, all the flowers and tall grass that grows on its bank.
When we brought the fish home, my mother would check the catch. She would explain as to which fish could be kept in the fish bowl. Sticklebacks are our favourite. The black leeches were always thrown away. The baby eels that looked quite like leeches were kept in another jar to be thrown back into the stream, on our next visit.
We had collected quite a few sticklebacks in the fish bowl. Me and my sister spent a lot of time watching them swim in the fish bowl
Our upstairs neighbours are from Iraq. Loma is a year elder to me and Sam is 4, just like my sister. They have black hair, just like us. We play a lot together. Loma always wanted her own fish bowl of sticklebacks.
I requested my bhaiya to give Loma two sticklebacks and vouched that they would be taken care of.
Loma and Sam were so happy with their own fish bowl. I taught Loma how to feed the fish and how to change the water in the fish bowl.
One evening Loma called us to check on her fish as she was cleaning them. We ran upstairs to their bathroom. The glass bowl was on the floor- empty. The plastic tub nearby was dry.
‘Where are the fish’? I asked Loma.
Loma smiled and said, ‘ the fish are taking a bath’.
That’s when I saw the washbasin. It was full of bubbles. The sink had been plugged and the fish were being given a ‘bubble bath’ !
I panicked! The fish will die in soap water.
If I pull the plug then the fish will go down the drain.
I immediately put my hand into the sink to try to catch the fish. My sister started scooping out the soap lather.
We then saw two tiny fishes floating on the surface of the sink. Me and my sister turned pale. The fish were dead. Loma and Sam were gaping and not actually comprehending as to what they had done.
I explained to them that these were fresh water fish and that soap had killed them. Fish do not need a bath. They live in water. The water in the bowl needs to be changed as otherwise fish poop will dirty the water, unlike in streams, where water keeps flowing and therefore stays clean all the time.
So the soap bath led to the end of the two sticklebacks.
My bhaiya never gave any more fishes to any neighbour kid after that.