Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review by James Goddard on Goodreads of The Gourd Seller and Other Stories-December 19th 2016


When writers write novels, they have all the space they need to delineate their settings, to allow their characters to grow, and to explore issues away from the core plot that they think might enhance the readers’ understanding and enjoyment of the story. A novel is usually at least 60,000 words in length, and usually much more. I know this from my own reading, and from my attempts to write novels—two of which currently stand at more than 100,000 words.
To my mind, writing short stories—not novelettes, not novellas, but true short stories of, say 7,500 words or less—is a more difficult craft than novel writing. Short stories demand discipline of a writer, they demand clarity of thought, and, perhaps most difficult of all, they demand the ability to be economical with words. A writer of short stories must be able to differentiate that which is essential to a story from that which would be nice to include---if only there was the space. The shorter a short story is to be, the more the writer must bring these things into play. This, I feel necessary, preamble brings me to Abha Iyengar’s slim collection of eight stories, ‘The Gourd Seller and other stories’ (Kitaab, 2015).
Frequently dealing with difficult themes, such as sexual assault and the buying of silence, as in ‘The High Stool’, mental cruelty and the unwanted attention of a grandfather, as in ‘A Family of Beauties’, and the role of women in Indian society, it is to the author’s credit that the stories never become maudlin or angst filled diatribes, Abha Iyengar’s abilities as a writer are too deft and well controlled to allow that to happen. What she succeeds in doing, is to allow us, as onlookers, to feel what her characters are feeling, to understand the emotional turmoil that sometimes reveals itself within them, and, often, to admire their tenacity in finding ways to improve their lives.
The clarity of Iyengar’s prose manifests itself on every page of ‘The Gourd Seller and other stories’. We come across well-honed sentences and descriptions that delight, such as this, from the story ‘Drought Country’: ‘Mother is stiff, austere; she does not speak much and her eyes soften only sometimes, when a stray thought enters her mind or she hears an old song on the radio.’ Which of us could fail, even though there is nothing in the way of a physical description, to have an image of this old lady in our minds?
So it is with Abha Iyengar’s stories, some are beautifully jewel-like, other’s, because of their grim subject matter, are finely-crafted artefacts. All of them, however, are works of art that are testimony to the power words can have, to shock, inform and entertain, when used by a real artist.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review of The Gourd seller and Other Stories at Earthen Lamp Journal by

Review of The Gourd seller and Other Stories at earthen Lamp Journal by Sushmita Sridhar



Monday, July 18, 2016


Hello Abha,
To be honest I was a little reluctant, in sending you a recommendation, because I have never written one, and I am no mood to write a formal brief, therefore consider the below words as a recommendation or comments or in whichever way you may wish too.
I wrote this novel  with a thrust to establish myself as a writer and to prove a point to myself, therefore I had been very clear to bring out the best in an possible way and you did exactly the same, you took it as a challenge to clean and edit the manuscript  and  appreciate you for doing the same. I wrote this novel with a crunch of sexism involved and I really wanted it to stay, when I had a word with you I could sense a strong feminine voice which made me a little reluctant as would you be able to justice to my writing or not but thankfully you did not let your personality overshadow the character that I was trying to build which proves your professional mind frame which for sure deserves cheers. 
You completed the assigned task well before time and with sheer dedication, which is clearly evident in the manuscript, also your habit of detailing  and other creative ways of pointing out errors was an add on.
If was to rank the entire process I would give 5 out of 5, it couldn’t have been better.
I wish you all the very best for future endeavors and I hope we get to work together again.


D. H.

D.H. is the author of a contemporary romance novel awaiting publication.
Within the year, the novel was published by Srishti Publishers and has become a bestseller. :)

The Vegetarian-Book review-on Goodreads

The Vegetarian is a deceptively simple book, but very complex in what it tries to convey. Nothing is laid out on a platter and the reader has to try and figure out what it is that is driving the main characters to do what they do. It indicates that the lives we lead are difficult to understand, and why we behave the way we do even more so. A married South Korean woman suddenly stops eating meat. Since almost all South Korean cooking involves and includes meats of various kinds, this puts her husband and her embarrassed family into a quandary, and then of course, they try to pressure her into eating meat. she does not even cook it, touch it. We also see how interwoven the family connections are, for it is not only her story, but also the story of her sister and brother in law, and the story of the world in a way, and how what we consider normal life is just a thread away from disintegration. I won't let on more, for it would spoil the reading of the book, which I do recommend. in very simple language, the author leads us along a path that is frightening in its reality. The translator has done an excellent job. there is an element of the surreal in the book, so if you don't enjoy that kind of writing, it may not appeal to you. For me, it was amazing how well the author writes. I would recommend this book wholly. needless to say, it's the Booker prize winner for 2016.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Speech as Guest of Honour at book launch of ‘Sargam Tuned’

Speech as Guest of Honour at book launch of  ‘Sargam Tuned’ a MULTI-LINGUAL anthology published by Writer’s Club on 10th July 2016 at IIC.

{Fellow panelists: Shri Laxmi Shankar Bajpai as Chief Guest, Shri Ashok Madhup, Shri Ratan Sadh, and Mr. Pawan Jain of Aagman}

Dear friends and fellow poets,
It gives me great pleasure to be here. My thanks to Mr. Pawan Jain, Aagaman Group, for inviting me as Guest of Honour for this event.

The launch to take place today is of a multi-lingual anthology of poems titled Sargam Tuned, edited by Amrit Raj and Ruchi Khandelwal, young poets and members of Writer’s Club. I am sure this must be making each participating poet very proud of their achievement and rightly so. It is by taking small steps that we move towards what we want to achieve. it is also a wonderful step taken by Writer's Club to bring into being an anthology that includes some of the languages of India, and English too.

I can say the you are a in a good space right now because you have a platform like this, and others, and the availability of social media networking that enables you to put together your poems, get them heard and get them published. when I was your age, there were no such avenues, and poems sent to the few literary magazines often went unaddressed. in fact, my poems were selected by kamala Das for Femina, at a time when she was poetry editor for the magazine, but I only got to know of my poems being published in the magazine by a third party. I had to bring this to the magazine's notice, and then they acknowledged it and also gave me a small payment for the publication. But this was just chance that let me know of the publication, otherwise I would have considered my poems worthless perhaps. Now, you have the means to get  published, there are many avenues, and you must take full advantage of this. 

But, you must read a number of poems and poets, for as Shri bajpai has said, we must not forget the traditional methods of writing poetry in our attempts to move into the free verse phase.

What can I say about poetry? A wiki definition says that poetry is a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. Another definition: A poem makes intense use of language, which results in a far greater concentration of meaning than is commonly found in prose.

So basically, a few words which carry INTENSE meaning. It calls for ‘Verbal melody and artistic rhyme’.

When we start out as amateur poets, often at a very young age because we are experiencing this plethora of feelings, our poems will be raw, full of feeling. As we become better and more experienced poets, our poems gain not only because of our experience, but also because of our greater exposure to poetry and our work become more layered, more concrete and more structured. This is a process like any other in writing. Yet, our poems will connect only through the intensity.

I believe poetry begins from a place of pain. That is what drives it forward. Because, if we have a smooth, and often uneventful life, our poems will be just that, light and full of froth. Poems gather depth through the telling of a pain. This pain is an individual and collective pain of humanity, it is both. And through this sharing we can experience/taste each other’s soul for the lines are from the heart and soul more so than the head. Poetry is beauty, sadness, pain, hope, glory, defeat and all else that we spill into it, and all that we read into it.

Poetry is not a use of big words or the glorification of a feeling. It should not be cut up and analysed in order to be understood. When poetry is an honest expression of the heart, it will be read and heard and it will be understood.

I would like to read a couple of my poems, both in English and in Hindi

Blue ink should spread your blood on the page
Just flow and age
Let it make no sense,
Life is nonsensical.
Red blood will die within your veins,
if kept in chains.
Blue ink spreads for eternity.

Song of Love
I don't know when he'll return
I never know where he's been
All I know, I'm his Bulbul
Singing his song of love.
I woke up to the song of love
I heard it in my dreams
I'm listening to this song all day

And cannot have enough.
The mind fills with his music
The body strums his song
This taste of love I experience

This taste cannot be wrong.
I close my eyes and listen
With beating heart I hear him
His song of love flows on and on

and asks if I can feel him.

 The Hindi Poems: 

All works © Abha Iyengar, 10th July 2016

I am happy to say that I received a resounding applause for my poems. And I was honoured to be in the presence of a great poet like Shri Laxmi Shankar Bajpai.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

#CatchUpOnGrowth: Horlicks Growth+ to Ensure Kids No Longer Fall Behind on Growth

 It was a wonderful gathering of Indibloggers at The Lalit in Delhi. I love The Lalit for its sophisticated and quiet ambience, its understated elegance.  I was attending a meet after a long time, and it could be because Indibloggers hold fewer gatherings in Delhi. But as before, this meet was also a wonderful gathering of diverse people with diverse voices, the common factor being that all of us blog. There was no waiting period here, one began with lunch, so the appetite was sated enough and people could interact and connect before the main event started.

In the hall, abuzz with excitement, silence soon prevailed when the games began. Yes, the introductory game of choosing a number from 1 to 10, and you had to talk a little about yourself and hope for a great prize, like a rose, or an apple or a thousand bucks.

Arvind Passey was lucky to get the thousand bucks;  Rahul Prabhakar was luckier to get a couple of roses, one of which he gifted to a friend he was seeing after a long time. Another contestant said she loved an apple (after some cogitation), and received one.We were all confused for a while and the contestant’s hopes must have skyrocketed for that split second, before she said she did like an apple, and was given the fruit. 

Do I like apple?
Oh these technology-driven days, when apple just made you want Apple instead.

Natasha Badhwar introducing the panelists

And then there was a panel discussion on nutrition and growth in children, with moderator Natasha Badhwar, a proud mother of three and a blogger, entrepreneur and media professional introducing the panelists. The panelists were Dr. Rajiv Chhabra, HOD of Paediatrics at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon; Ms Satinder Kaur Walia, who currently runs a centre named 'Learning at Potential', a centre for psychological and educational assessment; and Dr .Jyoti Batra, currently working as the Head Dietician at Batra Hospital.

The panelists

Peer pressure: discussion during the tea break, where weight conscious suddenly (what you see and hear does influence you immediately), I opted for black tea with honey and lemon instead of my standard milky fare with sugar, with a new blogger friend who is the mother of pre-teen kids, went something like this, “Peer pressure, which was discussed by the panelists, is so true. My daughter loves sabzi-roti which she will take to school for two days of the week. On the third day, she will take a sandwich. Not because she likes it, but because everyone brings sandwiches to school for lunch.”

There had been a discussion regarding the nutritious value of ‘paranthas’. ‘Paranthas’ were considered nutritious by the panelists. That threw me and I brought the issue up. Paranthas are loaded with oil /ghee, and did not figure in my dictionary of ‘nutritious’. The comeback was, ‘All mothers today consciously put less oil and never use ghee. And… we were comparing paranthas with pasta, the latter being maida-based. And…we could stuff them with vegetables.’ Everything is relative in life, and if I remember giving up those (lip smacking, mouth watering) paranthas made by my nani as a kid because it was adding to my girth; now, in comparison to fast foods and junk food, paranthas, consciously cooked, are nutritious. Mothers I spoke with in the coffee-break agreed with the panelists, saying that home-made paranthas were a good choice over market hamburgers and pizza. I totally agreed with this part of the argument.

But there was lots more learning to be done. I think the panel discussion was the best part of the program because the panelists discussed the issues without forcing any idea or product down our throats. They were informative and the primary concern was to answer the concerns of today’s rather anxious mothers.

Some points that surfaced were:
1.     Busy parents have to be willing to cook food for the children rather than agreeing to their demands for fast-foods which lets parents off the hook as far as cooking is concerned, but adds to growth related and weight related problems. (Ms. Satinder K. Walia)
2.     Physical growth is closely linked to psychological growth and well being of a child. A child who is low in nutrition and does not have the normal growth rate, would need his/her diet to be monitored and supplemented. Here, supplements like the Horlicks product being introduced today, specially formulated for such children, would help.
3.     Again, An overweight child may often be deficient in nutrients. Here too, conscious diet management would be required.
4.     1 Parle G biscuit is equivalent in calories to one roti with ghee. So parents saying that their child has only has 4 biscuits, need to do a rethink. (Dr. Rajiv Chhabra)
5.     Stuff paranthas with healthy vegetables. Make burgers at home with wheat burgers instead of maida burgers. Fill with cottage cheese etc. instead of processed cheese (Dr. Jyoti Batra)
6.     The Indian preoccupation with making kids drink milk is overdone. Too much milk will cause loss of iron in the body, and can make a child anaemic. (Dr. Rajiv Chhabra)
7.     Calcium received has to be properly processed by the body, for which Vitamin D is required. Vitamin D is received in the early morning from exposure to the sun before 11 am, with as few clothes on as possible. Between 11am and 4pm, children should be kept out of the sun because then the sun is too strong. (Dr. Rajiv Chhabra)
8.     Most of the factors contributing to parental anxiety stem from today’s life-style, the availability of junk foods and the lack of exercise.
Post the coffee/tea break, the product Horlicks Growth+ was introduced to us. Mr. Amaan Khan Marketing Lead for Horlicks for the Indian Sub-Continent at GSK Consumer Healthcare. He spoke about the product.  He showed us a film with mothers talking of how their children lost out in various ways (class performance, sports, self-confidence) because their physical growth was not in keeping with the normal parameters.
Mr. Amaan Khan speaking about Horlicks Growth +

And since the clock could not be turned back, it was an eye-opener to the need for making sure that children did meet the normal parameters. One way to ensure they did this would be by giving them the Horlicks Growth +, of course, under the doctor’s guidance.

We were served a little of the drink in a cup each on our tables. Let me tell you it tasted delicious. I was served vanilla flavour, which I prefer over chocolate, which is the other flavor available in this drink. I liked it so much that I wanted to know if adults like us, not growing but enjoying the taste of this product, could opt for it too.

Dr. Aditya Kaushik, who heads Medical Affairs for Indian Subcontinent at GSK Consumer Healthcare, said that no, we could not make it our Sunday afternoon drink. It was specially developed after several years of research to meet the needs of those children between the age group3-9 years, to trigger the growth in those falling behind the growth curve (in height and weight). Results are visible within 6 months, according to their trials. Horlicks Growth + contains high quality whey protein, growth amino acids and vitamins, minerals from natural sources.

GSK Consumer Healthcare has extended Horlicks, India’s leading Health Food Drink (HFD), into the advanced nutrition category with the launch of Horlicks Growth+. It claims to be the first brand in the category clinically proven for catch up on weight and height in children aged 3-9.

Differences in Growth

It tasted so good, that I was a trifle crestfallen to hear that adults could not drink this as a drink or a supplement of any kind. But it was good to know that children who really need this product now had something going for them.
How Horlicks Growth + helps growth spurt

Parents were also told that they cannot just buy it off the market and give it to their children. They have to get a doctor/pediatrician to prescribe it, which the doctor would do only if s/he considered its requirement. I like the fact that this was no out and out ‘buy this product for your self and your child at any cost’ tom-tomming of a product by a company. I liked the cautionary tone and I appreciated the fact that the spokespeople were insistent that it is geared for some children alone, who Really Need It.

Of course, it is an expensive product and cannot be bought by all and sundry, being aimed at the urban middle class with money to spend on their children. I wish there was something cheaper available for the rest of India, but maybe Horlicks is already thinking of that.

Coming back to the Indiblogger meet, that was not all. After this we had a Human Card shuffle (fun), and joined hands with nine others to form teams of ten members, to produce 20 second videos, and the best team would win. My team was team No. 3 and we called ourselves the Transformers (you know, transforming children), and we had a blast producing the videos, in which I was the sasu-maa (any takers?) giving my wisdom and ahem! age.

Our team hard at work
We share a light moment(you can see my spectacles on my head)

Our Te
 My personal takeaway:
1.     The takeaway Horlicks product, shown here. Thank you, Horlicks and Indiblogger Team, I am grateful, but I wish something I could use could have been added to this? 
Horlicks Growth + beautifully packaged
2.     I cast off my inhibition regarding making instant videos. Watch my blog space from now on, for some instant homemade videos.
3.     I look at each biscuit as something I cannot, will not, chomp on without thinking of the calories.
4.     I will read my magazines and novels sitting in the early morning sun outside, soaking up the sunlight and get that vitamin D.
5.     More than ever before, I realize that what is needed is a lifestyle change so that our children grow healthy and well.
And that's how much I enjoyed being there!

Here's the link to Horlicks Growth + https://growthplus.horlicks.in


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REVIEW OF SHRAYAN Fel Jaramillo Rosario reviews SHRAYAN on infibeam on 22/2/2013

SHRAYAN by multi-awarded poet and novelist Abha Iyengar is the kind of book that renders you in deep reflection after reading it. Could it be that our search for the fulfillment of our deepest aspiration/s will eventually wind up in a solo journey back to ourselves? If so, what is the point of aspiring for a greater self at all? But this is not an excuse to say, I am what I am, because without the journey outside our respective spheres and into the bigger world, we will never arrive at that exulted state that allows us deeper understanding and appreciation of who we are and that includes our imperfections, be they real or perceived. This is a good read. No, allow me to correct myself. Shrayan is a great read especially if you follow the journey of the main character closely (yes, like a stalker) and you get to see the changes in him. 

This is not just a physical metamorphosis. It is also a personal analysis of our evolution and the influences that shape or deform us. We search for acceptance outside ourselves (from others) not realizing that the kind of acceptance that can make us truly happy is one that comes from within, from us. The author drives this point home very effectively through Shrayan's various transformations. 

The message of freedom is also very strongly delivered here. We often make the mistake of roaming far and wide, away from ourselves, in search of it but freedom is not for the world to give. On the contrary, the world keeps us in bondage. Our many desires, induced by what we see in others, are self-inflicted enslavements. We may reach the pinnacle of our aspirations and still feel that nagging void within us. 

In the end we want to break free from all the trappings and "perfections" of life. There is no state of perfection outside ourselves. That is only an illusion, as Shrayan found out. There is a Shrayan in each of us raring to get out on a journey. 

SHRAYAN met my expectations on so brilliant a storyteller that is Abha Iyengar.