Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: Many Fish to Fry, by Abha Iyengar (Pure Slush) Posted: 26 Apr 2015 01:00 AM PDT by Andreé Robinson-Neal

If it were possible to have your eyes closed as you read, it might also be possible to feel, smell, and hear the story. You might be saying to yourself, “I can hear the story if I buy an audio book,” but that is not what is meant here.
Anjali’s fingers were hard despite the softness of the cream she was kneeding into Reena’s face. They were a worker’s hands, the hands of a woman who washed clothes, did the dishes and cooked the meals for the family along with her work as a beautician.
Abha Iyengar’s Many Fish to Fry is filled with touchable, smellable, hearable moments on each page. She takes us to Paharganj, a neighborhood in Delhi, to meet a variety of memorable characters, including Reena Vardharajan (which was shortened to “Rajan” because “Vardharajan” is so long, isn’t it?) and her family; Parvati, Reena’s part-time maid (who is a barely tolerable and weak replacement for Murali, the former full-time servant); Anirban Dasgupta and his wife Proteeksha, the Punjab/Bengali couple who live next door in Flat No. 69; jewelry maker Sanjay Singh and Neeru his wife; and the ever-effervescent private detective Harinmoy Banerjee. There is also the matter of fish, interwoven intricately throughout.
Thanks to her beautician, Reena’s love for jewelry making has been rekindled. She meets Sanjay as she embarks on her new career as a part-time business woman. Making jewelry provides her an outlet, something her traditional mother, traveling businessman husband, and busy children struggle to understand. She takes over the dining room table to craft her designs and spends afternoons visiting Sanjay and other merchants in the roadside shops to the dismay of her husband.
When [Reena's] seriousness with her work began to interfere with her attention to the little details around [her husband Anand], thing she had taken care of earlier because she had nothing else on her mind, he expressed his disapproval.
“You are getting too involved. Why do you need to do all this running around at your age? … I miss the hot rotis you make for me. you have no time to talk to me … and the dhobi just can’t iron shirts like you do … did.” …
She had expected him to be highly supportive.
But when a Hilsa fish shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep, followed closely by an unexpected meeting with Harinmoy Banerjee, a colorful private investigator and self-labeled Super Sleuth who rings Reena’s door looking for Proteeksha, the next door neighbor from Flat No. 69, Reena embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, laughter, tears, and gossip. And of course, fish.
Iyengar skillfully mixes language and cultures into a delicious stew that will suit any taste. She intermingles traditional Hindi and Bengali words and phrases (there is a glossary of terms in the back for the less initiated) with Western terms familiar to any English speaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Her words come off the page to tickle the palate. The sound of the traditional words and phrases, when read aloud, are lyrical to the ear: phrases such as Na rehega bans, na bajegi bansuri (“If there is no bamboo, there will be no flute,” meaning “If the source of the trouble is removed, then the trouble won’t occur,” according to the glossary) and Daane daane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam (“On each morsel is written the name of the person destined to eat it”) are just two examples.
As Chris Galvin Nguyen, the writer of the book’s forward indicates, Many Fish to Fry examines Indian social issues and suggests what it is like to move beyond tradition through the use of “real-life trends of language and culture in India.” For weeks after reading it, you will be challenged not to end every sentence with Harinmoy’s classic Is it not, dear?
This is not Iyengar’s first book, but it is her first with Pure Slush. She has a number of other published works worth checking out and can be found at www.abhaiyengar.com and www.abhaencounter.blogspot.in.

Monday, January 29, 2018

15th January 2018-spoke as panelist on the topic ' Na Sifaarish, na Khandaan, Banegi Apni Pehchaan

आभा आयंगर, मिनाक्षी अमोल और मनोरमा बक्शी पैनल पर. अनोखी क्लब की ६० शो. हिंदुस्तान अखबार द्वारा प्रायोजित. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Praise for my editing skills 3 - Piyush Rohankar


            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.

Thank you, Piyush!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trainstorm-An Anthology of Alternative Train Poetry- a Review

Trainstorm-An Anthology of Alternative Train Poetry
Ed. Dr. Amitabh Mitra

The Poets Printery, East London, South Africa
Date of publication: October 2016
Pages: 174
Price: Rs. 475/-
ISBN:  0620718307
ISBN 13: 978-0620718301
Available here: http://www.amazon.in/Trainstorm-Edited-Amitabh-Mitra/dp/0620718307

‘Trainstorm-An Anthology of Alternative Train Poetry’ is called ‘alternative’ because it is about the journeys that we take through our minds and our lives, linked somehow with the train journeys.

With 50 poets and 80 poems, this anthology titled ‘Trainstorm’, edited by Dr. Amitabh Mitra, chugs through our lives, bringing back memories of train travel, recent and past, forging a link between the poems and our own experiences. 

Alberto Russo’s poem ‘Choo-Choo Boy’ aptly connects the older man he is talking about to his childhood.

Usha Kishore talks of a ‘platform of long ago/crowded with thoughts’ in her poem ‘Pettah’, in ‘Railgadi’ she is ‘Flying across time like an arrow,/ across plains and hills, across singing/rivers poured into the silk of memory.

Nibedita Sen’s ‘Delhi’ is along poem, divided into different sections, very much like a train. She defines The Delhi Metro. ‘On a super-fast serpentine track it wheels/Towards an enigmatic destination…’

Lynda G. Bullerwell has a beautiful poem titled ‘Ghost Train’ where she asks us to ‘Take the slow train to reality because there is no colder place/where you cannot dream letters into sand and share words/with strangers…’

 In ‘Train Ride’, R.K. Biswas’ poem, we come across how being ‘wedged between sweaty knees/rustling buttocks in synthetic saris’ on a train can lead to desperate measures.

With diverse poets writing of their train journeys, through different lands, stopping at different places, at different points of their lives, this anthology also preserves a form of travel which is still popular but may soon disappear in the years that come. Horse carriages are things of the past and trains may follow. But till this happens, the joy of a train ride is an experience to remember. The poets in this anthology help us believe this.

The anthology is brought to life with the black and white photographs taken by Dr. Amitabh Mitra of trains and platforms and railway tracks and the fleeting countryside. This coffee table book has a beautiful painting done by Dr. Amitabh Mitra as its cover of a train coming at us, riding through a storm.

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. :)