Sharmila didn't feel like going up to her cozy closed balcony anymore, though the scheduled time for reading, which she was used to, had passed. She had already seen the empty round glass bowl kept upside down in the stand where it had always stood, full of life and lively. It still sparkled all the same, though..........
Many of her friends had always enquired how she spent her time alone in this isolated house, widow as she was, with her only daughter settled in another state. She knew very well that she could not explain the bliss of single blessedness to anyone. She lived with her fruiting and flowering plants, vegetable patch and her little dog always watchful over her. And of course her three precious pair of guppies. Curious visitors had always enquired why she chose such ordinary guppies to adorn the expensive round glass bowl. She had her own reasons, reasons that only she could understand. Guppies though small were highly resistive to all sorts of diseases. Sharmila had not inserted any additional oxygen supply gadgets inside the bowl. The natural plants were more than enough, breathing a steady supply of oxygen through their gill-like leaves, silent and steady. Though everyone was crazy of grooming gold fish and angel fish in their home aquariums, she detested those creatures because they were devilish and ugly. Angel fish with its long fins resembling the horns of devils, with the black stripes zigzagging all over the huge slimy body. And the Gold fish, with its ever protruding belly and conspicuous lips, its colour bleeding red and not golden. Those costly pets only invoked aversion in her.
It may sound quizzical or rather whimsical of her to have such a strong relationship with those little silent ones. But whenever she went upstairs to her balcony, the little ones could sense her presence. They all crowded to the edge of the glass bowl to feel the warmth of her touch on the other side of the cold glass surface. When she touched the bowl, they acted as though a positive energy entered their lives and made them bounce around all excited and exuberant. Sometimes they played hide and seek with her, vanishing underneath the huge sea shells which decorated the floor of the round bowl. When she fed them with the exact feed the pet shop had prescribed, the guppies looked at her with their grateful eyes. Every moment of their silence meant a thousand words conveying oceans of affection and gratitude for her. Maybe her silent presence invigorated energy in them and they thrived to be with her as her silent pets for the past one year. Whatever gives us joy we wish it could prolong forever. So was the longing Sharmila had when seated in the slanted easy bamboo chair of her cozy balcony with a favorite book, a cup of hot steamy coffee, the six silent moving guppies and the peaceful air rotating with fragrance of wild flowers growing without the aid of any gardener, at the edge of the gurgling stream flowing near her house. But things took a turn within no time.
She hated to think about that fateful day. Her 60th birthday, normally one keeps on blessing that day for being healthy until 60, immune to poisonous intake of fruits and vegetable looking evergreen fresh, supplied by the least caring farmers and quick money making merchants. Her daughter and family decided to celebrate the 60th birthday in a grand way. They arrived unexpectedly the previous day. Her grand-children Sonu and Munna were quite excited and eager to please her. They went around every nook and corner of the house trying to invade her private life with the hope to please her in whichever way they could. Sharmila went to bed at her normal routine time. But her daughter and family stayed late discussing how the celebration for the next day has to be conducted.
Sharmila was awakened by her daughter with a hot cup of coffee and the children waited for her to finish it soon as they wanted her to accompany them to her favorite cozy balcony for a surprise. She was terribly shocked to see the pleasant surprise they intended to give. In the round glass bowl among her gently little guppies were two devil like angel fish and two protruded belly bleeding red gold fish. "Oh! No, why did you bring these." Seeing her anguish and outrageous voice for the first time, her grandchildren were annoyed and asked, "Why Nanni, don't you love these beauties? These are the real aquatic pets which adorns the house aquarium and it is expensive too." Sharmila could not oppose their statements as she knew that it were relevant facts. She looked at her poor little guppies. She felt that they were pleading something to her. She wanted to remain there for sometime to know the reason for their anxiety but the chatter of the invited guests flow into her house drew her attention and she had to go downstairs to welcome them. Though the whole day passed with gaiety, blessings showered upon her, for many more years of peaceful life and stacks of useful valuable gifts from neighbours and friends who were invited by her daughter secretly to surprise her, Sharmila felt a sense of discomfort and restlessness. She was tired and couldn't make her way to cozy balcony that day.
Next day morning when she awoke, she found her daughter and family were already ready to leave for the airport to catch their flight back to their home. She found Sonu and Munna glum and moody. At first she thought it was because they were sad to part with their Nanni. But she sensed that they wanted to tell something and were hesitant. Finally Munna regained his boldness and blurted out, "Nanni, we are terribly sorry. There aren't any guppies in the bowl now. I think the Angel fish and Gold fish have gobbled them." "Oh! My God! No it can't be. My little darlings, I cannot believe this. I want them back."
All four of them remained silent for some time and then slowly hugged and kissed her with goodbye with a quick apology and left in a hurry for they felt if they stay back for longer time things may turn more unpleasant. With a heavy laden heart Sharmila sat near the doorstep clinging to the wall for support until her maid came to assist her. She told feebly, "Please take those creatures in the glass bowl and drain them in the lotus pond of our garden. I don't want to see them." For in her heart she felt they were flesh eating cannibals.
Nowadays, Sharmila detested going up to her cozy balcony with her favorite book, for the sight of the empty bowl reminded her of the silent ones who had gone to eternal silence.
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