Short Story Sunday #5

March 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Books, childhood, Grandfather, grandparents, Hyderabad, India, Short Stories, Teen, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Short Story Sunday

Welcome to week five of Short Story Sunday. There will be one more in the series making a grand total of, yup you guessed it, six.  This Sunday, we are featuring a story written in Canada about growing up in India. The author, Ahmed Khan, takes us back with him to his childhood in India engaging all of our senses as if we were right there with him.


by Ahmed A. Khan

I grew up in Hyderabad in India.

In that place, the sixties were interesting times to grow up in.

I was an only child to my parents. One of my earliest memories is that of a feeling of loneliness. Not that I was actually alone. No. I had many people around me who loved me and cared for me. But I felt that other people didn’t understand me, my thoughts and feelings. It was much later I found out that almost no person is fully understood by any other person in this world.

When I look back on the days of my childhood, I find that in many things, I was luckier than most. I was lucky in the fact that I was an extremely sensitive boy. I thank God for my sensitivity in spite of all the hurt it caused me, because the alternative would have been insensitivity.

A big, yellow old‑fashioned house with tiled roofs was where I lived. The house sported a garden, too. There were numerous fruits and flowers in the garden. In the midst of the garden there was a small water reservoir around which lilies grew.

My grandfather ‑ who in his time had been a magistrate ‑ had the habit of getting up early in the morning. After his morning prayers, he would take a round of the garden, watering the trees. Tending the garden was one of his pleasures. After watering the trees and plants, he would change his dress, pick up his walking stick and take a long walk through the paddy fields. Sometimes, when I had risen earlier than usual, I would accompany grandfather on his walks.

The paddy fields ‑ no, they didn’t belong to us ‑ stretched for three or four acres in front of our house. To reach the fields, all you had to do was to cross the road. This road led to the railway station that was about two minutes walk from our house. Sitting in the house, we could easily hear the sounds of the coming and going trains. These trains were steam‑powered and I liked the smell of the coal smoke that the steam engines gave out. The railway tracks passed through the fields. I enjoyed seeing the trains passing through the paddy.

In the garden was a mango tree. This tree was one of my favorite haunts in times of leisure. On this tree, I had fixed a small wooden board and a tin can. On the board, I would place grains of rice, wheat or corn and in the tin can I would put some water. This was for the birds to eat and drink. On this tree would I sit silently for hours and hours, watching the birds. Sometimes, I would bring books with me and sit reading atop the tree. On this selfsame tree, stripping down to my shorts, I played Tarzan a number of times.

In the evening, all of us, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, would either take a walk or bring out chairs and sit in front of the house in the gathering coolness of the night, gossiping. It was pleasant.

Summer nights in our house were extra special. Some of us ‑ particularly my grandmother and myself ‑ would sleep in the open, on wooden cots covered with crisp, clean sheets. It was extremely pleasant lying there in the coolness of the night, staring up at the star‑studded sky and listening to the snores of the rest of the sleepers and the chirrupings of crickets, grasshoppers and other insects, while the fragrance of spring flowers filled my nostrils.

During holidays, my afternoons were usually spent in grandfather’s room. I would lie beside him on his bed and he would tell me stories of prophets, martyrs and great thinkers of the world ‑ and I would lie there assimilating it all, occasionally asking him a question, otherwise remaining silent.

After the story session, he would usually go to sleep and I would get up from his bed and go around prowling in his room, searching for any books he might have brought from the State Central Library. I would find the books and start reading them at once, sitting in his armchair. These books were usually quite old ones, their bindings torn, their pages termite eaten, and a strange sort of smell rising up from them ‑ a mysterious, magical smell. Have you ever noticed what books, particularly old books, smell of? They smell of sunny and cloudy days and dark and moonlit nights. They smell of battlefields and gardens, of open skies and dusty attics, of deserts and mountains, of destinies and purpose. They smell of time.

If I ever sit and try to analyze the components of my present personality, I am sure I will find therein several constituents comprising of strange elements like a mango tree, paddy fields, summer nights and smell of old books.


Meet the author of SMELL OF TIME , Ahmed A. Khan . . .

Ahmed A. Khan

Ahmed A. Khan is a Canadian writer. His works have appeared in several venues including Interzone, Strange Horizons, Boston Literary Magazine, Queens Quarterly (Australia), Anotherealm, etc. He has also co-edited the anthology, “A Mosque Among the Stars.”

SMELL OF TIME appears in Volume 1 of Suddenly Lost In Words available now at SMASHWORDS, AMAZON US and AMAZON UK

Thanks again for reading!

Enjoy your Sunday!


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