There was a time when almost every member of my generation was brought up listening to fairy stories. Some of these tales were from local settings, while others had an international origin. My childhood memories are replete with exciting adventures involving a king, his queen, a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, a villainous wizard and a parade of ogres, giants and monsters. Sadly, this tradition of storytelling, if not already dead, is on its way to extinction - thanks to the onslaught of computer games.

Once in a while, we hear people talking about real life encounters with ‘little folk’ - a Western term used for fairies, elves and gnomes. Although hard to believe, these individuals are perfectly serious and carry a credible reputation amongst those that know them. I once overheard an old family acquaintance known for his passionate pursuit of ‘shikar’ narrate one such encounter to my grandfather.

It appeared that the gentleman in question was on a weekend hunting expedition with three other friends somewhere near Marala Headworks during the duck shooting season. It was early dawn and the bitter cold had prompted them to build a fire, while donning their gear. All preparations completed, it was decided that one person in rotation would be left behind to look after the jeep and rest of the equipment for the four shooting sessions. A little disappointed at being given this boring task, the central figure in our story reluctantly assumed the mantle of a guard and stretching himself beside the fire, soon drifted into sleep. A rustling sound in the tall grass nearby jerked him awake and seconds later he found himself staring into the face of what appeared to be a small child that was peering at him out of the tall grass. Thinking that it was a village tot, who had strayed to the spot at this early hour, he asked the figure to come out of hiding. Suddenly, half a dozen similar faces appeared in the dense surrounding undergrowth staring at him in a manner that exuded belligerence. Our family friend admitted that he broke out in cold sweat as he realised that what he was looking at were not children, but pint-sized adult human-like creatures, who appeared to be sizing him up. Needless to say that he immediately fired his shotgun in the air and shouted at his companions to return, at which the intruders disappeared. Senior members of my family maintained that this episode was enough for the man never to go shooting, unless he was constantly in company with others of his kind.

My passion for growing flowers stems from my maternal grandfather, who taught me to look at each bloom as a fantasy character. I have tried to pass on this wonderful approach to my grandchildren and am smug in the satisfaction that I have succeeded to a large measure. My Antirrhinums are tiny terriers, who open their mouths to bark whenever I press their elongated necks and my Pansies, when stripped of their withering petals become ladies from the Middle Ages dressed in their flowing gowns as if for a ball.

My garden becomes a riot of colours that flit to and fro as hundreds of butterflies visit it every year. This magnificent show assumes a new dimension as scores of fireflies and glow worms begin showing off their luminance during summer nights. I have often sat in my verandah and watched my children’s children collect these green lights in glass jars and then release them back into their habitat. I have often peered into flower beds and the grass in my lawn in the hope of seeing a tiny figure with gossamer wings peering out at me from the foliage in the knowledge that the child in me is alive, well and friendly.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.