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The Storyteller’s Tale

By Omair Ahmad

The Storyteller's TaleClick here to buy The Storyteller’s Tale.

They had destroyed his house.

Ahmad Shah Abdali’s men had devastated the whole of Delhi and his house had only been a small one. Its destruction would hardly have registered on the rampaging Afghans in their search for loot and pillage. It had not been a great house; only the fame of his poetry had led the noble and the rich to his door. They had been lavish with their praise, and stingy with their purses. It had meant a meagre income, a beggar’s or a poet’s, or that of a beggarly poet’s. But his dwelling had at least kept the rain off his head, and the sun off his back.

Now he had nothing, or he had his freedom. It depended on how he looked at it, he supposed.
He had tried to find a foothold in this city. In his poetry he spoke of friendship, of love, of all those things that he would never have openly admitted to in the small town he came from. But in the many chambers of music and dance in Delhi the word ‘love’ was spoken of in many ways, it was nothing but a currency of exchange, of looks and glances, and promises that were never truly what they pretended to be. Here, love was a thing to be done many times.

But when he had opened his mouth to speak, the words had come out all wrong, all of them, in every which way. They had tumbled out of him, heavy with longing, wrapped in a fire that is a stranger to the light laughter of the city. The unexpectedness of speaking his own truth had stunned him.
Almost twenty years had passed, and in the end he had exactly what he had when he first arrived: his stories, his freedom and the open road before him.

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