Tuesday, July 14, 2020
'Mrs Abha Iyengar is a professional and dedicated editor. Her dedication and efforts are quite praiseworthy especially because the quality of the manuscript is enhanced after her editing. She is soft spoken and handles the work assigned in a very sincere and professional manner. She is one of the best editors one can find online. Her evaluation is thorough and comprehensive. I wish her all the best.'
Ankush Kumar, author of a self-help book. (June 23, 2020)
During this pandemic lockdown I found myself staring at a heap of papers (short stories) stowed away over last so many years in various dark corners. The challenge was - ‘where from here’. Then appears Abha Iyengar – like a light in the darkness. Soon those scribbles start to look like distinct characters forming a tellable story. Result- ten stories and a collection (Stories- that remained untold). Thanks Abha!
Abha Iyengar’s Shrayan is an Indian fantasy novel that explores the individual’s struggle for both social and self-acceptance--- Review by Smita Sahay at Women’s Web
Abha Iyengar’s Shrayan is an Indian fantasy novel that explores the individual’s struggle for both social and self-acceptance.
Review by Smita Sahay at Women’s Web
All of us have a hidden place within ourselves, the place of longing and of escape from the dissatisfactions of life. But is it as easy as it sounds? Abha Iyengar’s first novel, Shrayan, is the journey of a creature, half human, half animal, through rejection and self-awareness to self-acceptance. He seeks and struggles to be understood in a world where he does not belong.
Iyengar liberally dips her quill into mythology and magic. The book is a fable of sorts; it brings to us a world of dissatisfied, imperfect characters, humans, semi-humans, or fantastical, fighting their own battles. Through these characters and their struggles, the reader learns something about herself too, for instance, learning to make peace with her unfulfilled desires.
Shrayan, a dweller of the underground, finds his first friends in snakes and Sapera and discovers dance, which gives him strength and solace throughout his life. Sapera’s brother Vishwasghat murders him and sells Shrayan like an animal. Fate rescues him and he reaches a school. This is where he discovers beauty and love for the first time. He learns Kshatriyam, a martial arts dance form, and he learns to read and write. However, due to certain unfortunate circumstances, he is forced to run away and he battles with his own bestiality. Eventually, he reaches a place where he finds food, shelter and a job with a baba and his hunchback companion. But will this last or will Life continue to test him?
Iyengar has brought magic realism and fantasy together. Shrayan has hooves and fur, but speaks, walks, eats and dances like a human. He reaches the fantastical land of happiness, where he meets Nordic beauties, snake-dragon women and a giant named Trishna, which means hunger. Iyengar brings in Indian arts, in Kshatriyam, mythology, in the dance drama unfolding the love story between Krishna and Rukmini, philosophy, in conversations Shrayan has with Lotus, Madira and Manila, and Indian culture, in kundalini.
The narrative is conversational and engaging and lots of unexpected plot turns and character appearances keep the reader immersed. Love takes myriad shapes, and so does sexuality. Fatherhood recurs in the many relationships that are formed and lost. Most of the characters are silent and complex with histories, strengths and failings.
However, sometimes the conversational, chatty narrative takes away from the magic, and some motifs, such as that of the recurring snake, probably symbolic of something, could be more plausibly accommodated in the plot. Some character appearances and plot turns would have been more impactful with a deeper treatment. One also wishes that some other characters whom Shrayan meets through his journey, show up later and have more role in the story and his life. A clearer sense of the passage of time would avoid confusion and make Shrayan more concrete in the reader’s psyche – his is called “…the body of a young man‘s” at the beginning of the story, and he is in his early twenties towards the end of it.
Short chapters, easy language and a dramatic narrative make the book a light read. The speculative fiction and magic take one to far away journeys. Speculative fiction is an evolving genre in Indian literature in English. In this book magic, relationships, fate and a semi-human character come together in a contemporary Indian context, to make you reach into your own insecurities and imperfections. The next time you worry about your own hooves, think about how far Shrayan walked on them.
Thanks, Smita Sahay.
Friday, January 17, 2020
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
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.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
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
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!'