One of these mornings, last week, my friend and I landed up in a small restaurant. An aquarium tank - was usual. Fish inside it -was usual. Arowana - now that was unusual.
Arowana are bony fish found in the tropics. Look deadly, that people sell it as the evil-eye fish, vaasthu fish. Guys are fierce ones, adults are 2-3 feet long, so only one fits in a medium size aquarium. Some of the smaller fish could co-exist, but Arowana decides the fate.
On that morning, cutting chai and a small vada- pav was consumed at leisurely pace, watching the Arowana swim around. He swam contented, but we always felt something was about to happen. There were couple of fish - one, a type of frog fish, and another black - angel fish types, can't place it.
The frog fish, clutching the sand below, lied low, and the black fish could not swim freely - whenever the Arowana turned in its direction, this guy ducked to hide - under the air feeder or dove to depth.
Suddenly, in one turn, the Arowana spewed a few fins out - remnants of a digested fish, perhaps. We asked the hotel employee - he said that there were about 20 live fish in its tank, three mornings ago.
'Arowana ate only live fish' he said. 'The black-fish was the last of the lot. The frog fish was from an earlier group, but still has managed to survive.'
We were, somewhere inside, shaken. My friend, too confirmed that. Did not have a good feeling. We went after our morning office chores.
About 2 pm, I had lunch and started to work on something else. Arowana, blackfish all forgotten. Then a short-text popped in my blackberry- from my friend, saying 'the blackfish is missing'. I could not recollect, and responded later ' what the heck are you talking about'; he messaged me back - ' the aquarium'.
The same chill, we had felt in the morning, returned. I was silent. Thinking more about it, I felt that the situation threw up life in its different perspectives.
The hotelier - probably fed live fish to Arowana - and more than, kept that fish - more to get some customers, than to ward off evil. Making life by taking lives? Or was it making business sense?
The customer - comes and returns again to watch the fun - feeding the crass curiosity of the prey-predator duel?
The Arowana - becomes a show, while living its natural life and character? Wrong place?
The black-fish - did it have better chances of survival in an ocean than it had to lead a life of fear and struggle to die?
The frog-fish - still clutching the floor, lying low - escaping the eyes of Arowana... he survived beyond the Arowana's lunch...
Who is right and who is wrong? What is right and what is wrong? Or is it the way life is? Well... life goes on... the Arowana still swims, the frog-fish is still on the floor, the customers come, the hoteliers make the money, but the blackfish is missing!!!