This Sunday I happened to glance through some of my daughter’s books. One of them was a picture alphabet book, and as I turned the glossy colorful pages, my glance was arrested upon the page with the letter ‘F’ printed on it. Beneath it was the picture of a large, colorful, smiling fish puffing out blue bubbles out of its half open pouting lips. All of a sudden I was seized by the desire to paint that fish on paper. It had been probably a decade since I had painted anything and the thought of it gave me a thrill of excitement, reminiscent of days now too far into the past. The next moment I was out of the house and returned with a drawing notebook, a set of poster colors, half a dozen paintbrushes and a palette. I spread out the implements on the dining table and began working in earnest on the masterpiece.
I had barely begun however, when I was interrupted by my little daughter.
“What are you doing?” She demanded to know.
“Painting a fish darling.”
She looked at me as if I had encroached into her exclusive territory.
“I want to paint a fish too!” She declared.
“Alright,” I said, rather pleased at the child showing early inclinations of emulating her father.
I gave her a drawing sheet and some crayons. A blood-curdling wail informed me that this was not at all what she had in mind; she wanted to paint exactly like I was doing it – with poster colors, paintbrushes and palette. Not wishing to set up a tornado, I went out again and came back with another set of whatever I had bought a few minutes ago.
This hurdle overcome, the two of us sat at opposite sides of the dining table and began working with intense concentration, so much so that you could hear a fly’s heart beat. Suddenly I was aware that my wife was peering over my shoulder with a contemplative look on her face.
“What are you doing?”
“I think they call it painting.”
My sarcasm as usual was quite wasted.
I couldn’t compose any satisfactory reply to this profound question, so I went back to my work.
“If you are so free, why don’t we go and meet my relatives at Mansarover? Uncle’s blood pressure is getting out of hand and he wanted to consult you about it.”
I mildly observed that her uncle’s blood pressure would get into hand just as soon as the perennial cigarette got out of it, and that it was the usual practice for the patient to come to the doctor if he wanted some serious advice and not the other way round. She said that if her relatives annoyed me so much, at least I could take her out for a movie instead of dabbing with paint in the company of the child.
I gave up, reflecting that it was better to waste one’s Sunday on a movie than one’s awful lawful relatives. During the movie, my half-painted fish kept swimming into my mind, and soon I had completely lost any sense of the plot. I consoled myself by guzzling on the cold-drink that my wife permits me to drink in return for letting her munch on pop-corns in a movie-hall.
As soon as we got back home, I rushed to the dining table and started work on the fish. Five minutes later, the doorbell rang and heralded my friend into the house.
“Hey idiot, what are you doing?” He asked pleasantly.
“I would have thought it was quite obvious to anyone of above moronic intelligence that I’m painting,” I replied with dignity.
“Painting, eh? Completing your daughter’s homework for her are you?”
“No, my dear Watson, its my own muse that has inspired me to this feat.”
“Really?” He seemed aghast for a while, but composed himself very quickly. “Come on man, stop wasting a Sunday on this tomfooling. Lets go to a bar and get a couple of beers.”
“I think the service of art is much more appealing to my soul than degrading it by sloshing it in liquor!” I declared.
I drank two beers and by the third I could see my fish swimming gracefully in the bottle. My friend had four and I had to drive him home. His wife looked reproachfully at me, as if it was all my fault!
It was late when I got back home and my head was swimming a bit. The fish was lying on the table and my muse was unrelenting. It was two in the morning when I finished it, and I topped it up with a poem about it for my daughter. Here they are, for all they are worth.
F for Fish
F for fish, a funny fat fish,
I live in the sea or Pool,
And though I cannot read or write,
I’m always found in a school.
I breathe while I swim, through my gills,
My fins flap and tail goes swish,
And if little girl you swim so well,
They’ll say you swim like a fish.
You might catch me with hook or net,
For I make a tasty dish,
But better buy an aquarium,
And make me your own pet fish.
Then you can watch me play all day,
Making li’l bubbles of air,
And be sure that I’ll tell you,
If something’s fishy somewhere.