Tag Archives: Abha Iyengar

Short Story: Birds of Prey by Abha Iyengar

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Maharathi Debdutt saw the hennaed foot, dainty, as the passenger stepped off the palanquin. Then the wheel went over it. His deed was done. He did not hear the shrieks that rent the air. From the beautiful princess who was to be wed, she became the hobbling one, the unwanted one.

Ever since Maharathi Debdutt had set eyes on the little one, Rajkumari Heeramoti, she had fascinated him. Her absolute milk white skin, the fragility of her limbs, her big black eyes and tumbling black curls, were a delight. He would watch her at play from a distance. He was a horse rider and a charioteer, and he was not allowed within the palace. Read more

Short Story: Big Daddy’s Chair

By Abha Iyengar

Big Daddy always sat on the big reclining chair with its long arms opened, his legs splayed across the arms, wide. He was a short man, but big and sturdy, and somehow his thick, muscular, hairy legs across those long arms seemed just right. At least to my thirteen-year-old eyes, for I had seen him reclined in this position, chewing his tobacco and scratching his chest, which, surprisingly, had no hair, ever since I was a child.

I noticed these things, because I have always been observant since my childhood, and this has stood me in good stead and in bad stead, depending on the situation. Like when I noticed how extra low my aunt would bend to light Big Daddy’s fire, exposing her breasts, which, compared to my mother’s non-existent ones, would attract anyone’s attention, and Big Daddy’s eyes were always drawn there. Aunt did little to hide them, and enjoyed his eyes on them. He would bend forward from his reclining position, chuck her under the chin, and smile, his fat lips widening across his protruding teeth, and his legs would twitch on the arms of the chair. Mother would be busy inside and I somehow knew I should not bring such things to her attention. But I saw all this. I did mention this to Sirish, my friend, who was a year younger than me, but much wiser. He knew about things. He had once sucked the blood out of my foot, when a snake had bitten it, and people said he had saved my life. So he was also my blood brother because, after all, as he said, some of that blood would have been sucked in, even if he had kept spitting it out because of the poison. Maybe some of the poison had also entered his blood, without harming him, but making him less innocent, more aware, at least that’s what I thought.

But I am scurrying forward, as I am known to do. Noticing the interaction between my aunt and Big Daddy was just one thing. There were some other things that I observed. I had also seen my aunt stealing from the kitchen, taking food to her home just across the road that weaved in and out of our huge plantation area. She was my mother’s sister, who had married a rich man, but he had squandered his money on drinks and drugs, and she had come home, asking for shelter from my mother. My mother, out of the largeness of her heart, as large as her beautiful big eyes which perhaps saw nothing, had requested Big Daddy to allow her to stay. Big Daddy had agreed, his eyes straying over my aunt’s face and body. As he said, she was after all, his wife’s sister, and so, she was welcome to stay. So how come I could see things my mother could not? I told you, I was born observant, and maybe I had more of my father, Big Daddy, in me, I always saw more than was visible up front.

So it was that I had begun to tighten the cloth over my breasts to stop them from growing, and ate little to stop myself from becoming a woman, for I knew the danger there. But I could not really do much, for however hard I tried, I had begun to see the way men glanced my way. So I began to stick closer and closer to Sirish, till one day mother told me that I was to be married to Venkaiyah, and would have to stay inside for the next month, in preparation for the wedding. I would have to say goodbye to Sirish, for now I was to be betrothed to another man. So perhaps my parents had also seen the danger of my growing body, or it could be my growing affection for Sirish. Sirish was an orphan child and a labourer; the lowest of the low. As far as my parents were concerned, he was nobody.

Venkaiyah was Big Daddy’s right-hand man. He was tall, dark and silent, with hair that curled down to his shoulders. He wore a full-sleeved tight terycot black shirt and tight black pants that emphasized his crotch, everyday, without fail. Everyone noticed, and everyone consciously ignored it.

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Kitaab video: Interview with Abha Iyengar

Abha Iyengar, author of The Gourd Seller and Other Stories (Kitaab, 2015) is an internationally published author, poet and British Council certified Creative Writing Facilitator. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, magazines and literary journals, both in print and online. She is a Kota Press Poetry Anthology contest winner. Her story, ‘The High Stool’ was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. She has won several literary contests. She is a member of The Poetry Society of India and Writing in India. She has contributed to popular anthologies like ‘The Simple Touch of Fate’, ‘Knit Lit Too’, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ and The Indo-Austalian Anthology of Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in literary journals like Gowanus Books, Tattoo Highway,Tryst3, Bewildering Stories, Enlightened Practice, The Asian Writer, Door Knobs and Body Paint, Citizen 32, Arabesques Review among others.

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Abha Iyengar

abha-iyengarLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

There is an inherent restlessness in me, i.e. in my mind; it shoots out incessant electrical impulses which have to find an outlet. Writing does that, it acts like a voltage stabilizer, and channelizes this restlessness into something meaningful, something of stability. For example, I may look at the leaf turning in the wind from green to silver-grey, and think of Robin Hood in his green vest as a young boy and wonder what happens to him when his hair turns silver-grey, with the winds of age? And till I translate this into writing, it will make my mind go round and round this thought, mulling over it, adding to it, till I write it down. It is a form of momentary torment if I don’t write it down. I may let it go, and then it is a lost impulse, and I feel as though I have missed something. Little thoughts like these gather momentum and need expression. I wonder if this is an explanation at all, but this is how I feel. I must write.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My most recent publication is The Gourd Seller and Other Stories, a collection of short stories published by Kitaab. What was I trying to say? That the short story has its space and can have as much an impact in its telling as a novel will. That stories matter, whether in the form of flash, or a novel. Each form is just a means of relating with the world, and trying to understand existence. Tough job, that, so stories help us in knowing that there are many like us, there is a universality to all things, and we are not alone in our battle with the forces of dark and light. That underneath the everyday mundane, lies the truth to each life lived.

the-gourd-seller-199x300I am now working on a short story collection of some 10-12 stories, based loosely on the theme of “Together”. I wrote a story for the Lit Bulb project which was based on this theme, and then I just wrote another story, and another. It is a very loose structuring around that theme, but if you look closely, you would be able to understand that a thread is running through, but otherwise, they really are totally different stories.

I am also revisiting a novella I had written earlier. It needs some work on it, more research and more thinking, and more body. Read more

Love in a Lauki: Review of Abha Iyengar’s “The Gourd Seller & Other Stories”

Soumya Mukherjee reviews the book in The Hindustan Times

the-gourd-seller-199x300The most marvelous stories of our lives are often hidden in the mundane. This collection of seven short stories is about the small-big things that make or break our lives — a gourd seller who heals an embittered woman with the lightness and warmth that he wraps in the vegetable, a girl brought to terms with the ugliness of beauty right in her family, a housekeeper who pays the price of sitting on the high stool, and many more.

The writing is simple and strikes as poignant while bringing out what lies beneath the obvious details that make for seemingly ordinary lives. From the Ghalib library to shanties in Kanpur, it makes you travel not just out, but deep within. Some of the morbid endings are as moving, and these stories stay on.

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India: Cyber City to host its first literature meet

Now Gurgaon will have its festival too: TOI

The disparate but symbiotic worlds of technology and literature will converge next weekend as Cyber City hosts its first art and literary festival, Gliterarti, on December 13 and 14.

Presented by The Times of India, the festival, which is an initiative of Real Estate Development Council (REDCO) Haryana, will include exhibitions of art, photography and sculptures; live art and art auctions; workshops on art appreciation, cartoon-making and creative writing. Read more