Free From School

You must try to understand that when I finished school I was as raw as raw could be. I had never travelled anywhere on my own, never purchased a train ticket, since like most kids my age I had only travelled with my parents or relatives and they made all the decisions. I had no experience of how to handle money (my knowledge being limited to spending the 50 paise or one rupee I would receive as pocket money now and then).

So while I had set my sights on travelling far and wide my parents wisely thought that I should begin by learning to manage on my own within Goa itself. It was also the rainy season and travelling around the country would be much more difficult they explained.

So I started out by helping at an aquarium shop in Mapusa, the town nearest my village. The proprietor of the shop is Ashok D’Cruz, a college friend of my father’s. I must tell you about Ashok. He is no ordinary businessman: keeping fish is a passion with him. He is far more interested in chatting with his customers about fish than making money selling them. I have never seen him forcing any of his customers to buy from his stock of aquarium fish.

In fact, it was Ashok who introduced me to the amazing world of aquarium fish way back when I was just nine and studying in Class V. Under his guidance then, I experimented with breeding guppies, platties and mollies, fairly simple types of fish to breed. However, it was a matter of great excitement for me at that time to be successful in my experiments and Ashok was generous enough to even buy back from me the baby fish I reared just to encourage me. Later I developed sufficient confidence to experiment with and breed more difficult types of fish, like Siamese Fighting Fish and Blue Guramies-all under the expert tutelage of Ashok.

So it was to Ashok’s shop that I went every morning at 9.00 a.m., speeding on my bicycle to be on time. I would stay there until lunch time, a regular hands on, doing whatever I was asked to do.

Ashok’s shop is not very large. It is a two-roomed shop on the ground floor of the Gomes Catao complex. It has a display section in front and a store room at the back. The showroom has about twenty fish tanks on display with a variety of fish that Ashok purchases mainly from Mumbai. Each tank stores a particular species of fish. Ashok’s shop is located away from the main market area so he does not have the advantage of casual customers dropping by. However Ashok has his regular customers and there are always at least twenty to thirty customers daily.

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