Near Bade Papa’s home is a very nice pond. And it is full of shimmering fish. They are yellow, green, red, purple, and blue in color. And you know what I like to do with them? I like to feed them. I walk with Didda, my aunt, to the little pond, and where do I get the fish food? I will get fish food from the guard bhaiyya. So I walk up to him and I call out, “Give me, give me!” and he turns around and asks, “What do you want, little baby?” I say, “Phissh phood.” And the moment he hears me say “phissh phood” he breaks into this beautiful smile. And he hands me over a little parcel. A little packet of paper, which is rolled over three times, and has fish food in it.
Clutching the paper packet in my hand I go and stand beside the pond. The fish are used to feeding and they all flock to me. I open the packet. There are little pellets of food inside. I drop them one by one. I don’t want my little shimmering fishy friends to fight with each other for the food. So I walk around the pond from left to right and right to left and left to right, dropping two to three pellets at a time.
Before I even realise it all the fish food is gone. And I look at my shimmering fishy friends, and they want more. So I turn around and look at guard bhaiyya again. I walk up to him and I can hear pitter patter outside. I look up to him and I say, “Give me, give me,” and he again turns around. “What do you want, baby?” I say, “Phissh phood.”
Now he says, “Only one more, no more for today. You know what will happen if I give you more? All your fishy friends will fall sick.” So I take another little rolled-up packet of fish pellets from him. I go back to the pond. Now I’m even slower than last time.
one drop at a time, and slowly the fish move away in all directions, mostly satisfied.
I’m very happy. I have given fish food to all my fishy friends. And now it’s time to play. So I walk into the garden with Didda and I play with my ball, then I jump from the swing, and soon I’m waiting. Whom am I waiting for? It’s almost evening and Bade Papa is going to come around soon. He is my father’s elder brother. The moment he sees me, he will scream out aloud, “Akku! Akku! Where are you?” And we will pretend not to see each other for some time. I’ll be running around in circles. I will go and hide behind the tree near the pond.
And I will call out, “Bade Papa, Bade Papa!” and then Bade Papa will be going round in circles, pretending not to see me. He knows I have seen him and I also know he has seen me but that’s the game we play every day. Slowly, he inches towards the tree, he walks around me, grabs hold of me, and says, “Akku, I have found you!”
And I say, “Yes, Bade Papa! You know, Bade Papa, what I did just now?”
Bade Papa asks, “What did you do? What has been happening?”
“I went to my shimmering fishy friends and I gave them a lot of phissh phood!”
Bade Papa starts to giggle and laugh loudly and asks, “What did your fishy friends tell you?”
“They told me, ‘Give me more! Give me more!’”
“What did you do when they said, ‘Give me more! Give me more!’”
“I walked up to the guard bhaiyya and asked him for ‘phissh phood’. I got all of it, and I gave all of them enough food to eat.”
Pleased Bade Papa says, “Now it’s time to say ‘goodnight’ to your shimmering fishy friends; the orange, the green, the blue and the yellow.” I come down from Bade Papa’s arms, take hold of his finger and we walk around the park, one last time.
It is said in that part of the world which Mumma calls “Singaporeee” that when you say “goodbye” to the fish at night, all the little friends wish you goodnight and you go to sleep peacefully and calmly. I walk around the pond, wish my fishy friends goodnight, then we walk up to the lift and go upstairs to the home we stay in. Once home I say “goodnight” to everyone, including Papa, Mumma, and my grandparents Maa and Daddy. I walk into my room and there is a little pink fish waiting on the bed to go to sleep with me. I kiss it and go to sleep knowing there will be another day coming up tomorrow. I will go back to meet my fishy friends again.
So goodnight all of you, have fun. I had a lot of fun with Bade Papa and my shimmering fish!
Excerpted with permissions from Why Can’t Elephants Be Red?, Vani Tripathi Tikoo, illustrated by Rupak Neogy, Perky Parrot/Niyogi Books.