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In which I Wonder about Dead Bodies, Lessons

I spent all of today hauling dead bodies.

Ok, not hauling, but picking up.

Right, maybe I’m being a tad over-dramatic? Because the dead in this case are fish.

Tiny, and aptly named mosquito rasboras, the pink-red-black adults grow no more than 3/4 inch.

Quite a few have died since last night, though Β the others don’t look sick.

As I picked up each floating, spiraling body from my 4ft aquarium, I wondered how life and death are relative…and if a life is a life, any life.

If a fish’s life is not as important as that of a human, is it merely because in the grand scheme of creation, the death of a human makes a bigger difference than that of a fish? Or any other tiny creature?

I hear that life on our planet would survive very well indeed if humans as a species turned extinct. If, on the other hand, all the bees on our planet dies out, or all the insects, life on our blue ball might be in peril.

So, death.

If my pet dog dies, I’ll be very sad. If a stray dies, not so much. If someone I love/ care for dies, I’ll be devastated. If a stranger on the other side of the world dies, it would be a blip on my screen. If it is a celebrity, I would be sadder. If the stranger is infamous, like Osama, I would be curious, but not really very sad.

So, my reaction to death varies with who/ what dies.

If I loved all the tiny rasboras in my aquarium personally, each death would kill a part of me. Seeing that they are one of many, and I have no particular bond with each of them, I just calmly get up, fish out the dead fish, and flush it.

Sadness at death is proportional to the level of attachment. Lesson learned from the dying/dead fish.

For the time being, the most immediate problem is figuring out what exactly is wrong with my aquarium.

But somewhere, I must squirrel away the lesson at the back of my head. I have lost loved ones before, and will (sadly, but inevitably) lose more. Or I might realise that it is my turn to be lost.

That would be good time to unwrap the lesson, and put it to use. Nothing can make the death of my rasboras worthwhile, but I’ll settle for a lesson.

Such is life. And death.

Death, Lessons, Fish, Life

Death, Lessons, Fish, Life

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • bronxboy55 says:

    I went through the same thing with my daughter when she was in kindergarten. I got her five goldfish, set them up in her Little Mermaid fish tank, and one died every day for five days. Maybe they can’t handle paradise? The goldfish in the scummy pond live for years with no one feeding them and no one cleaning the water. I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson there somewhere, although I have no idea what it is.

    I love your thoughts on the relative value of life. It’s a complex topic, but you cut to the heart of it with your excellent prose.

  • Dafeenah says:

    Very deep thoughts just from cleaning out your aquarium. I can’t believe how much you got out of that. You are amazingly talented. I would have been so flustered about having to clean the mess I would have totally missed this opportunity.

    • Damyanti says:

      I don’t know if I was consciously trying to get anything out, Dafeenah. I was and continue to be quite upset about the deaths of my tiny pets, because I still haven’t figured out exactly what is poisoning them.

  • Lol! Yes, I wouldn’t be so shaken either if I was picking up dead fish, either! πŸ˜‰

    YA Paranormal Romance Darkspell coming soon!


  • oh says:

    Dear D,
    So much in this entry! So many layers and levels and meaning and moments… (and thank you for the picture of the fish – I had no idea what one of those might be.)
    And I had no idea you were an aquarium keeper!
    I hope you’re printing your blog entries. This one is headed towards becoming a full blown story.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thankyou for your comment…Yes, I have aquarium (s). I’m doing an e-book out of the stories I wrote for the A-Z challenge–basically the posts in April. I’m editing them now, throwing some out and replacing them, but the ‘book’ should be out by end of May!

  • PencilGirl says:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve said it already, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it again (because I want to.)
    I love the way you write!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
    Death is a fact of life. And eventually, you have to accept it. For some though, the acceptance comes after they die.

    As for the fish.. I’m sorry they’re dying, did you try cleaning the aquarium? Changing the water, maybe. Not that I know anything about fish maintenance.
    Honestly, though, I have a little difficulty really considering fish as pets. Just my take on them. I can even imagine a worm as someone’s pet, but not fish.. 😐 Maybe I’m just a little weird.

    • Damyanti says:

      You always manage to embarrass me πŸ™‚

      The aquarium is super-clean, and very well-maintained, but it is only a month old, and the water chemistry has not settled yet…my fish guy says some fish will die in the beginning, no matter how long I let the nitrogen cycle run before putting them in!

  • Arlee Bird says:

    That’s one reason I don’t keep pets. The last pet I had for my kids some 15 years ago or more was a snake. It died. But when it was alive we would have to buy cute little mice for the snake to kill and swallow whole. The world lives and dies, gives birth and kills–it goes on and on.
    Interesting thoughts in this post, and things I’ve thought as well.

    Tossing It Out

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks Lee. Death is a fact of life…and pets dying, while not easy to face, is still a part of the process of living.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    How brilliantly you express yourself. I love reading your thoughts which meander down the lanes of mind. You do so very well by them.

    I’m sorry about your fish, though.

    • Damyanti says:


      I feel sorry for them, since they have not stopped dying and I’m not sure what’s wrong, yet.

  • toby says:

    I think every conscious, thinking person eventually wrestles with the topic of death. I like your conclusion from this: “Sadness at death is proportional to the level of attachment. ”
    There’s more, though. Here are some of my thoughts:

    I signed up for email updates on your blog and plan to “spotlight” it eventually. I’ll keep you posted!

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks Toby, both for your comment and for linking me to your post. You’re right we all wrestle with the topic of death, and each find a different way of dealing with it.

  • For me, the point to remember is that there can be no life without death. Growth depends on death. Our bodies are constantly replacing dead cells in order for us to live. The whole of nature is a cycle of life and death. Dead bodies, plants β€” all living things die and rot, or burn to ashes. Such feeds new growth. Bodies and plants adapt over millions of years, for this there must be death.
    Death before its due is tragic and where humans are concerned much can be avoided β€” all people of every race, creed and colour, beautiful or (by distorted human standards) ugly. Much suffering in the world could be avoided if mankind became more willing to share. Unfortunately greed works and uncaring attitudes work against life.
    I used to conduct funeral services. I saw them as a celebration of a life and also as a comfort to the bereaved. We are all part of this fascinating cycle where, to the religiously minded, we are all equal before God and that nothing in Creation is worthless. We live on within the cycle of life. As to an afterlife, that will depend on one’s religious beliefs.
    When I visit housebound or sick people, they are sometimes looking for a reason for their affliction. Why is God doing this to me? sort of thing. If it helps to think that, I don’t argue, but I might give my view β€” terrible things happen to people and animals and the earth itself. Some things can be avoided but ‘blame’ God is pointless. This is the nature of Creation. A belief that God is with us in suffering, I do find helpful and stimulates an attitude of joy in His presence β€” just as we might find joy in nature. Not one person, not one tiny fish is without importance. The fish brought you joy, your joy in your fish brought joy to your readers. This too is part of that creative cycle.
    It is possible that your blog, and writing generally, might live on for very many years into the future. So your fish will live on, as will you. And so too the physical bodies as they are recycled within nature β€” there is nowhere else for them to go. This is life – endless.

    • Damyanti says:

      So your fish will live on, as will you. And so too the physical bodies as they are recycled within nature β€” there is nowhere else for them to go. This is life – endless.

      Lovely, lines, Gladys. In fact your comment is a post all its own. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  • Is there any subject you can’t write about, and write extraordinarily well? πŸ™‚

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