Aquatic relief

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A drawing room  display  of the rich, aquariums are finding their use a s effective  stress busters. Aliya Bashir reports.  
Ashiq Nabi, 13, has a gentle smile as looks eloquently at a two-feet-long aquarium with colourful varieties of fish on display at a shop in Srinagar. The visual treat combined with a complementing sound turn a simple gaze into a stimulating exercise. Ashiq’s attention is glued to it for more than 15-minutes. He peeps in to have a glimpse of more aquariums.
Otherwise shy and silent, and the specially challenged Ashiq rarely smiles.
Watching her son smile, his mother, Dilshada decides to buy the aquarium for his son.
“It was after a long time, I saw my son smiling. He is suffering from mental illness by birth and remained lost in his own world. He is very stubborn. I couldn’t control my emotions when I saw him smiling,” she says. “An aquarium made him smile, so I decided to buy it for him.”
Dilshada has taken his son to Lal Chowk to buy a bicycle for him. When Ashiq stopped at the aquarium shop, Dilshada changed her plans.
“He forgot everything about the bicycle and was staring at the fish in the aquarium with joyful eyes,” says a smiling Dilshada, as her son stands by, visibly excited with his new found small world of new friends.
What Dilshada thought was a coincidence, however, is an accepted fact among psychiatrists who recommend aquariums as stress busters.
Scores of people in Kashmir purchase aquariums for a welcome break from the stress of a busy lifestyle or two decade long conflict.
For Umar Firdous, 32, owner of Royal Aquarium House at Hari Singh High Street, it means good business.  
“From elite to poor, and civilians to army men, all are in my customer list,” Firdous says.
His clients include nature lovers who enjoy the pleasant site of fish swimming around in colourful glass environs, the elite looking for an impressive drawing room display, and the people suffering from stress.
“Nowadays lot of people in Kashmir are turning to aquariums to beat the stress,” he says.
Due to overwhelming response, Umar says, he has opened outlets in north Kashmir’s Baramulla, and Bandipora districts. With a trained background Umar has hopes of expansion.
 “I have done a proficiency course in Aquarium Sea World from New Delhi. I got the training for setting an attractive aquarium and overall beautification and maintenance,” Umar informs.
The aquariums he sells vary in price from Rs 1200 to Rs 30,000.
Doctors explain that movement of fish in an aquarium facilitates smooth eye movements in horizontal direction. “The movements match the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, prescribed for the treatment of trauma and anxiety patients,” says Dr Arshid Hussain, a prominent psychologist of Kashmir. “The EMDR can have a smoothing effect on the mind”.
Abdul Gani Shawl, a resident of Qamarwari was suggested by a friend to get an aquarium for his son, who after a huge loss in business went into depression.
“I didn’t take it (suggestion) seriously. But, once I got it for my son, it really worked wonders,” beams Shawl.
He says his son started improving and enjoying his leisure time with the aquarium.
Aquariums usually contain fish, aquatic plants and some decorative material, aeration system. Care has to be taken for heat management, feeding and maintenance of delightful environment for the fish.
“We order different species of fish, ornamental plants, Japanese feed from Delhi. Locally, hardy fish which require less care are also used. The different variety of fish includes one and a half inch molly, black moor, gold moor and aquarium sharks,” Umar says.
Umar says that many times fish die for not having suitable water conditions or proper aeration system. “So, it is very important to look for the overall maintenance for a healthy life of fish.”
Psychiatrists say the therapeutic effects of watching fish in aquariums include decrease in blood pressure, pulse rate and muscle tension, reducing anxiety and improving sleep. This is generally referred to as the “Aquarium Therapy”.
“This technique has been used outside India effectively and we are using it here also. It has shown good results. Aquariums come handy in high stress situation areas like Kashmir,” says Dr Arshid.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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