Munira Premji

Four weeks ago, Sabrina and Afzal adopted a turtle in an aquarium.  A few days later, the previous owner of the turtle begged them to also adopt their two fish as they were leaving the country and the fish had no home. Sabrina and Afzal agreed to take the fish, albeit a little reluctantly.

This addition to their family has caused some joy, chaos and unpredictability in their – and our – lives.

Three weeks ago, we were on a call with Afzal and Sabrina . We discussed potential names for the turtle (they settled on Leo). We asked about the gender of the turtle and they said they were unsure; they think it is a male. They relayed with concern that one of the fish had an infection, with a big lump on its side. They insisted on showing us this lump and asked for our reaction. The lump was visible and they were treating it with an antibiotic that the previous owners of the fish had given them. At that time, we had a healthy discussion on WhatsApp around whether they should keep the fish with the turtle, whether the fish would infect the other fish and the turtle, and how the turtle would respond to having the new fish invade its territory. I was amazed at the varying recommendations, from getting another glass container and separating the fish from the turtle; to just isolating the infected fish to another bowl until it got better.

Two weeks ago, Sabrina called to say that Leo the turtle was harassing the fish. She was visibly annoyed with Leo.  She had me watch the interplay of the fish(yet unnamed)  and turtle so I could witness Leo bother the fish. She and I watched the aquarium for 10 minutes while the turtle behaved itself perfectly.  And then I saw it!  Leo started chasing the fish and bit their fins – this was all caught on camera! The fish were swimming all over the place trying to get away from the turtle, and we could see where the fins had been partially snipped by Leo’s teeth.

Time-out for Leo!

To discipline Leo, Sabrina has been giving it “time outs”; I guess that is the equivalent of sending a kid to a room, or in the corner. She put it in a glass container all by itself so the turtle could see the follies of its way. Leo has been getting bigger and is now in its rebellious terrible two phase. Yesterday it found a way out of the bowl. Afzal and Sabrina searched high and low for Leo, until they found it sitting beside a plant in the balcony. Needless to say, the turtle is back in time out.

Nagib and I are feeling a bit like grandparents with the turtle and fish, a part of our extended family. We have come to the realization that Mother’s Day comes in many forms and shapes. So to all the mothers who are raising kids, dogs, cats, fish and turtles, we wish you all a happy, healthy Mother’s Day!


  • Annie , May 12, 2020

    Wonderful story and sharing of learning experiences!

    Did you know that turtles love to eat fish? Could it be that the turtle was being its natural self? The best thing is not to punish it, but to separate it from the fish if you want to keep the fish as pets. Let them live in their own space.

    The turtle may not know why it is being punished though it can sense that it has caused some annoyance just as children can.

    Maybe it is a lesson that it is important to explain to our charges why we, as parents, find certain acts offensive rather than punishing our charges in anger and with an expectation that they “know” what they did wrong because they usually do not. Just a thought to consider:)

  • Anonymous , May 11, 2020

    Truly enjoyed your storytelling! Lovely thread to Mother’s Day . Hope you had a truly blessed one and no one else had to have a time out! Xoxo

  • Faiza Venzant , May 11, 2020

    Happy Mother’s Day, Munira!

  • Tasneem Premji , May 10, 2020

    This story is hilarious and loving and a true testament to how much a daughter picks up from her mother subconsciously. I love how you take an event in your life and turn it into a teachable moment and a story for your readers to immerse themselves in. This is gold! Love it! Congratulations Sabrina and Afzal on the 3 new additions to the family! I hope that Leo learns his/her lesson and that the infected fish gets better soon!

  • Anonymous , May 10, 2020

    Love the inclusion of turtles and fish to the family and extended family – glad that everyone enjoyed a happy mother’s day. I thought the end of the story would be that Leo’s name would have to be changed to Lia, but that was not the case. Hope the time outs are effective in changing Leo’s bad behaviour. xoxo happy mother’s day Munira.

  • Karina , May 10, 2020

    Beautiful, inspiring, and amazing story mukhianima! It brought light to my soul just reading this❤

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