Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Friday, January 17, 2020

Words Matter: The Lateral Learnings of a Writer

As a writer and editor and sometimes book reviewer, I pick up some nuggets through casual conversations, some word that flies in the air, or a work I suddenly stumble upon.  I shall give you some instances to illustrate what I am talking about.

In 2013, Sudeep Sen invited me to review the Harper Collins Book of Poetry edited by him, and the review appeared in Cha (http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/1424/394/).  While reviewing the collection, I was introduced to the work of several new poets, one of them, John Siddique, whose poems really resonate with me. This is one of the unexpected throwbacks of doing voluntary work; you gather your diamonds on the way. And later, I found in John Siddique’s collection of poems titled ‘Full Blood’ which I bought, that he actually has a very beautiful poem in there (among so many others) which is titled ‘Abha’. I posted this on my blog:

I recently participated in the Seemanchal International Literature Festival in Bihar where I met a young Bengaluru writer, whose body is home to several tattoos. I admired a few and she gave the reason or occasion that made her get them one by one. There was one on her forearm, however, which she said she had got done ‘just chumma’.

“Just chumma?” I raised an eyebrow. “You mean, for a chumma? A kiss?” for that is what chumma means in the general understanding of the term.

She laughed. “No, chumma is a Bengaluru word, meaning ‘just like that’.”

“Oh”, I grinned, “you mean ‘aiwein’, which is what is used in Delhi to denote the same thing?”

We began to laugh. But for me, this was a delightful term which I would make a part of my arsenal. When I say arsenal, I mean I would use it sometime somewhere in my writing or one of my talks.

I was also introduced to some poet hitherto unknown to me like Abdul Ahad Saaz, whose poem finds its mark in me:

मैं बढ़ते बढ़ते किसी रोज तुझको छू लेता
कि गिन  कर रख दिये तू ने मेरी मजाल के दिन

~ अब्दुल अहद साज़

which translated reads:
I would slowly move forward and touch you some day
But you have counted out the days of my impertinence

Another word making the rounds sometime in Darjeeling post the festival was the word ‘itemgiri’. It was a Mumbai phrase, and one I thought had to do with Bollywood item numbers (raunchy songs), but it turned out that this phrase is for boys who hang around outside college gates eyeing girls. So they do ’itemgiri’, and it is supposed to be an inherently youth-centric pastime.

At a recent gathering at Habitat Centre where the discussion was on women at the work place and how an environment could be created there for their safety and wellbeing, a word that cropped up was ‘mamitsu’, which is an Italian term that translates into ‘being soft inside’. It was a term used in the discussion to ask for a certain degree of vulnerability and understanding to occur in the workplace. This was another word that has uniquely found its way into my arsenal of words and expressions.

And so this carries on, people and places and the words they carry with them that add dimensions to my life. Words and expressions fall upon you indirectly and get imbibed into your system for further thought and action. Or you let them lie within you to just nourish you on your journey as a writer.


© Abha Iyengar, 12th February 2017. First published in Different Truths.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Another recommendation: Gargi Mehra writes

Thanks very much to Abha for reviewing and providing quick and quality feedback on my flash fiction stories. Abha pointed out exactly where the stories were not working and gave detailed suggestions as well as line edits. I’m very pleased to see the improvements in both pieces and I’m excited to send them out after working on the given comments.
Warm Regards,
Gargi Mehra

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Another Endorsement

Vrinda Baliga, author of the short-story collection 'Name, Place, Animal, Thing' (2017), writes of my recent editing of her stories:
"Abha edited my short stories with a keen eye for detail, and I am very happy with the results. She is prompt and professional, and a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend her services."
Thanks so much, Vrinda, for your endorsement.

Friday, June 28, 2019

More Praise for my Editing

Dr. Ameya Bodre, Head, Clinical R&D, SINE lab, IIT-Mumbai writes:

'I got an opportunity to share one of the stories of my debut collection with Abha and I am more than happy with her edits. I think this story was a bit different from the others I'd written, and I felt I experimented with the style and narrative. She provided useful feedback without outrightly asking me to make any major structural changes. She didn't remove any chunk of text but finely edited it to retain its essence and yet sound crisp and effective. She introduced important transitions in the plot that changed my reading experience of this story. I would surely recommend her edits for all budding and established short story and fiction writers!'

Monday, June 17, 2019


These days I take my tea without sugar,
And I like the music turned down low.
I have less appetite for small talk, 

And I like books that are short but truthful. 
I love you but I don’t want to own you. 
When you’re gone, I will miss you
But not too much; I have my writing. 
I start shows on Netflix and abandon them. 
I look up at the sky and am transfixed. 
I look also at the banyan tree’s roots 
On some nights while going home; 
The roots hanging long and still, 
Like a sleeping woman’s hair 
Hanging off of the edge of the bed. 
I have less and less to say to people. 
I tune into silence with alacrity, 
Like it’s a preferred radio station. 
I am casting off old darlings 
One by one; sugar, sound, drama. 
“Well, dear, life is a casting off. 
It was always that way.” 
I remember those lines 
From an Arthur Miller play. 
Am I getting older and wiser, 
Or merely older and colder? 
How to be sure? 
Maybe I don’t want to be sure;
I’ll cast off that darling too; 
The need to feel sure.
What was that?
Do I need anything?
No, my dear.
Well, maybe a cup of tea,
If you’re having some too.
Warm, not piping hot.
And no sugar.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Further Praise for My Editing Skills


            You were referred to me by a common friend of ours who gave very good review about your style of working and editing. So I decided to avail your services and true to the review I got about you I too had a wonderful experience working under your guidance. Your schedule for editing was very time bound. The clarification asked for was duly addressed and the editing of the novel was good. Moreover I got to learn quite a few things about presentation, Grammar, structuring of sentences and paragraphs. Thank you ma'am for all your patient help and guidance and all the insight into editing. It was a wonderful learning experience for me. I admire your professional and friendly approach to work. I hope I get an opportunity to work under your guidance in near future again.

Piyush Rohankar

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

In praise of my editing skills

Thank you Abha for copy editing and proof reading my book even before the dead line. 
You have done a wonderful job and it was a pleasure working with you.
I greatly appreciate the work you have done for me, and for your valuable time and patience. 
Thanks to you my book is ready for publishing.

Warm Regards,