Ira‚Äôs father was a marine biologist. He used to research various marine creatures in the Indian Ocean. Ira loved accompanying him on many of his trips. They would spend days at sea in a tiny fishing boat and Ira‚Äôs father would show her wonderful marine animals. Ira would come back to school and tell her friends about her trip with her father and of the new animals she had seen.
One day, Ira‚Äôs friend Michelle gushed about the mermaid movie she had watched to the others at school. ‚ÄúThe mermaid was so pretty, her upper half was human and she had a fish‚Äôs tail instead of legs!‚ÄĚ said Michelle.
Ira heard the word ‚Äėmermaid‚Äô and her ears perked up. She had seen a real mermaid on the last trip with her father. Ira interrupted Michelle saying, ‚ÄúNo, no, that‚Äôs not how a mermaid looks. I have seen a mermaid and she‚Äôs not half-human and half-fish.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBut the mermaid in the movie was all shimmery and beautiful and she lived in a underwater castle deep in the ocean,‚ÄĚ said Michelle dreamily.
‚ÄúUgh,‚ÄĚ said Ira, ‚Äúwho wants to be human if you can be a mermaid and see the wonders of all the oceans. Mermaids don‚Äôt live in deep ocean; they live in shallow coastal waters where they can get plenty of luscious sea grass to eat. They swim lazily in the ocean with their rotund grey bodies and have a dolphin-like tail. They have short flippers, a big mouth and whiskers! And I have seen one with my dad.‚ÄĚ Now, everyone perked up and they all asked together, ‚ÄúHave you really seen a mermaid? A real live one?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYes, I have seen one on my last trip with my dad. He is a marine biologist and researches marine animals in the Gulf of Mannar. It‚Äôs only one of the three places in India where you can see a mermaid. They are very rare. Even in Mannarm there are only 250 of them remaining,‚ÄĚ said Ira.
‚ÄúCan we get to see one?‚ÄĚ everyone piped up. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll ask my dad,‚ÄĚ said Ira simply. Over the next few days, Ira was hounded by her friends to ask her dad if they could see the mermaid. Finally, Ira could get through to her dad who had been away at sea on another one of his research trips. ‚ÄúHe said ‚Äėyes.‚Äô But he also said we have to be very careful around mermaids since they are very shy and, most important of all, endangered,‚ÄĚ Ira announced seriously. ‚ÄúYes, we will be very careful,‚ÄĚ said all of them in unison. Ira‚Äôs father found a bunch of very eager and curious kids with him on the boat in the summer that year. All of them had many questions about the mermaid, whose real name Ira hadn‚Äôt told them yet.
‚ÄúI am so happy you are so interested in seeing the mermaid,‚ÄĚ he told them. He had brought snorkel masks and wet suits for all of them. He taught them how to breathe with their mouth through the snorkel. Then, it was time to explore. Each one of them felt that underwater was a whole different world. They saw beautiful and colourful fish swim past them. And then, came the mermaid! She swam slowly but gracefully, and since she is a mammal, she could hold her breath only for 15 minutes, after which she would swim to the surface and take a breath of air. They saw her dive down to the bottom of the ocean and eat sea grass and other sea plants since she is a herbivore. They had a pleasant laugh later remembering how she snuffled the plants delicately and how her whiskers wriggled funnily while she did that.
Ira‚Äôs father bid a fond goodbye to the kids as he thought, ‚ÄúWhat does it matter if the kids thought the dugong was actually a mermaid. As long as they thought she was a wonderful creature and deserved to be saved!‚ÄĚ
Mermaids don‚Äôt live in deep ocean; they live in shallow coastal waters where they can get plenty of luscious sea grass to eat. They swim with their rotund grey bodies and dolphin-like tail. They have short flippers, a big mouth and whiskers.