Friday, November 26, 2010

Urban Shots-Short Stories includes My Story 'Slow Rain' - Book Launch mention in the Hindu about the Delhi launch of Urban Shots. Thanks, Poulami!

Short shots

A collection of short stories looks at lives entangled in the hustle and bustle of the big cities

Authors Ahmed Faiyaz, Malathi Jaikumar and Abha Iyengar at the book launch
Life in urban areas is characterised by money, comfort, glamour, complexities and pace of work. These different facets of urban life find meaningful expression in the book “Urban Shots”. Published by Grey Oak, the book, an anthology of 29 urban tales, has been contributed by 13 writers like Abha Iyengar, Malathi Jaikumar, Hasmita Chander and Vrinda Baliga, Ahmed Faiyaz, Rikin Khamar, Biswanath Ghosh, Kainaz Motivala, Naman Saraiya, Sahil Khan, Kunal Dhabalia and Prateek Gupta. Interestingly, Motivala has also been seen in films like “Pathshaala” and “Wake Up Sid”.

Deceptively simple

These fresh, vivid and deceptively simple stories are set against the backdrop of urban metros with their bright lights, sky rises, glitzy malls, tenements, crowds and the chaos that comes with it. Divided into different sections titled ‘Relationships', ‘Love', ‘Friendship', ‘Angst' and ‘Longing', the book contains stories by experienced as well as young authors. Edited by Paritosh Uttam, author of “Dreams in Prussian Blue”, “Urban Shots” was launched recently at the Oxford Bookstore in the presence of some of the contributing authors.

Explaining the title of the book, author Faiyaz who is also the Managing Director, Grey Oak Publishers, and author of “Love, Life & All that Jazz...” and “Another Chance”, said, “Most of the stories are set in the urban background. We have in fact tried to play with the word ‘shot' to indicate snapshots of urban life.”

Reflecting life

Malathi's tale called “Liberation” revolves around a group of slum dwellers.“Each story that I write is embroidered around a core of truth. ‘Liberation' is the story of a group of slum dwellers who move to the city from the village and their experiences that follow. It is based on a combination of two real life experiences.”

Akin to Malathi's narrative, Abha's story too stems from real life. “Slow Rain” depicts a married woman who is a dreamer. The limitations she faces in her married life are realised through her dreams. The formal launch of the book was followed by a panel discussion on issues such as urban life, the varied connotations of emotions, difficulties of marketing an anthology of short stories and other complexities of working in the genre.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

'Yearnings'- my poetry collection reviewed at Pirene's Fountain

By Abha Iyengar
Serene Woods, New Delhi, 2010
Number of pages: 112
Available at:
Reviewed by Nabina Das
Yearn for the Body and Beyond

This could have been a collection of usual love poems, love that is intense and physical, but Abha Iyengar‘s shamanic voice take us beyond just the deep sense of longing that her poems transmit. Flipping through “Yearnings” (Serene Woods, Delhi, 2010) one notices the tenor of her poems to range vividly from the soft, muted plea to a coy dalliance, to a voice of aplomb. In the very first blush, a poem that reached out to me was “She” – the ‘she’ with her delicate blue throat, an intrinsically empowered woman who “could have any lover”.

Iyengar’s style is playful as well as pithy, her diction conversational, the kind you’d imagine in an intimate tête-à-tête. Besides the love poems, the other compositions are melodic and philosophical. She, like her poetic personas in this collection, is at once hyperbolic and restrained.

In “Denial” the voice is passionate and defiant. Although the image of a zipper as a “metal snake” is invariably masculine in its evocation, it is not difficult to imagine the feminine voice, confident and aroused. The same voice easily glides along the speaker’s daily humdrum routine:

I wait for you to leave
And sigh with relief.
Do my yoga,
Drink my orange juice
Eat my fresh fruit
And marvel at how I like
Everything natural
Except you. (Everything Natural)

The poet’s oeuvre quite often is that of a soothsayer, made wiser in love:

And as you feel yourself
Split wide open
Your eyes will fail to hide
The memories, the thoughts, the dreams
One by one they will shine through.
And you thought
I never knew. (Split Wide Open)

Iyengar’s allusion to physicality is bold and wholesome:

At the base of your throat
where your pulse quickens
At the sight of me
This moment. (This Moment Etched)

And at times unabashed:

His tongue under my skin,
His hurt under my bone,
His touch under my collar,
I feel him everywhere.
I will live this life like this. (Wanting)

The ephemeral quality of love presents itself through a stunning stanza such as:

Then bends down to take the picture
Of a green grass hopper,
Waiting for time to pass but
Hoping he will catch her before
The light dies for the day. (As the Light Dies)

Iyengar is comfortable with using mythology as a prop (The Banks of the Brahmaputra) as well as venturing out for metaphors from hitherto unexplored ideas involving even race, color, skin, quite unexpected in Indian poetry:

Cracking like an eggshell
I let out all that I hold
Sticky and yellow the desire
for this man
Of another land, another skin,
Light of an unknown dark,
His sunlight on my bleached shore. (The Dark of Another Land)

The anaphora as a poetic device Iyengar employs well in (A Strange Stirring) with the phrase :

There is a strange stirring

The line break employs a pause like the speaker’s breath, with the enjambment dropping that one word in the next line like a throb.

One sees that device in the negatives as well – “no” and “not” – where the lyric persuasion wins over the curiously italicized portions in the poem.

Something in Iyengar’s voice and imagery is startling, yet it feels familiar to the Subcontinental ear. A song-like (I am tempted to say a geet or a naghma) quality resounds in the following:

I shall put ittar on my pulse
Sing the song that pulls him
To the red of my palms
And the blood within. (Certainty)

Although she writes in mostly free verse, Iyengar’s poetry is marked by abundant internal rhyming, free-flowing rhythm patters and the efficient use of styles like list poems, refrains and even rhymed quatrains. Satire and humor too dot the pages, that of a wily lover or a sage seeker. Published by Serene Woods this year, “Yearnings” is a highly recommended reading for poetry patrons.
Abha Iyengar’s poetry has appeared in Dead Drunk Dublin, Conversation Poetry Quarterly, Long Story Short,Up the Staircase and others. She is a Kota Press Poetry Anthology Contest winner. Her poem-film, "Parwaaz" (flight), has won an international prize at Patras, Greece. She is recipient of the Lavanya Sankaran Writing Fellowship.Website

Nabina's novel “Footprints in the Bajra” is available from Cedar Books, India, while her work has been published in North America, Asia and Australia. An Associate Fellow for the prestigious Sarai-CSDS "City as Studio" Fellowship 2010 (New Delhi, India), Nabina has won prizes in the poetry contests organized by UNISUN Reliance, 2010; Prakriti Foundation, 2009; and HarperCollins-India and Open Space, 2008. She blogs at when not writing. An MFA candidate at Rutgers University, Nabina has been an editor with literary zines and newspapers in the US.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Yearnings- Poetess: Ms Abha Iyengar, Pages: 112
Publisher: Serene Woods,
D-72, Nivedita Kunj, Delhi -110092
Printing: Thomson Press India Ltd., Cover Design: Hami (
Her website:, Her blog:

Internationally renowned poet Abha Iyengar has brought out perhaps her first collection of poems ‘Yearnings’. The most striking feature of her poems is their freshness and simplicity. These are poems of love and romance in which emotions dominate. They bear a stamp of authenticity in that they give expression to felt experience. The mind and heart of the poet shines through these poems. These poems are hers and hers alone. One of the qualities of good poetry is that it is not a part of the heaps; it stands out for its individuality rather than for imitation of a model big or small. Many a poet who writes in English has been undone aping T.S. Eliot and his ilk Abha escapes that snare and writes what springs from the heart and goes straight to the heart. A few examples speak for themselves.

It is morning
The dew hangs on my lips

This is not one dimensional poetry. Pain and anguish is another aspect of their themes.

Social Misdemeanours

From the goody-goody girl image
The serpent sometimes crawls out,
To take a snipe at civilization
And then retreats,
And contride
At the heinous act committed,
Hiding itself
From accusing eyes.
So with a quick smoothening of skirts,
The smile fixes on once more,
A momentary lapse, ignore it now
We shall continue as before.

Strange Lands

In Berlin I cried,
My body racked with pain,
I nearly died.
In Boston I cried
My sister in law had cancer,
She died.
In Paris I cried,
Of a heart wounded and despaired,
My soul died.
I have cried in strange lands
And strangers have held my hands.

This collection is quite likely to make its mark in the world of poetry.
- Prof. Kuldip Salil (Ex- Reader, Hans Raj College, DU)
1770, Outram Lines, Kingsway Camp, Delhi-9

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My poetry collection published

Finally , my poetry collection is published, the first ever, and it is available online and sample poems can be read.
I am feeling like one proud poet. Strutting my stuff.
Loving it.
Please visit. Please read. If you like what you read, you may want to read more.
If your do, please purchase.
Here is the book. My poetry.