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Abha Iyengar
(Delhi)

Abha Iyengar graduated with Honours in Economics from Miranda House, Delhi University. She practiced as an interior designer before turning to writing full time. Publications include an article on "Population", a paper on “Urban Development-Its Impact on Security and Ecology in Asia”, prize-winning haiku in "Life Positive", poems in Femina. ‘Tryst3’ first published the poem ‘So Particular’, and the poem ‘A Woman’s Cry’ was first published by ‘Its About Time Writers’. She has received A Breakaway Books Contest Honorable mention and publication. She is a Kota Press Poetry Anthology Contest winner.  She has contributed to popular anthologies in the U.S. ‘The Simple Touch of Fate’, ‘Knit Lit Too’, and more. Her articles/poems have appeared in Writers Hood, Shy Librarian, Artemis, Insolent Rudder, Its About time Writers, Raven Chronicles, Tattoo Highway (contest winner), Writers against War, among others. She is passionate about creativity, education, travel, health and spirituality and believes in the power of the written word. She is a member of The Poetry Society of India and ‘Riyaz’ Writer’s Group at The British Council, New Delhi.
Address :  A-506 UNESCO Apartments, 55, I.P. Extension, Patparganj, Delhi-110092
Email:
 abhaiyengar@rediffmail.com & abha_iyengar@hotmail.com

       

Selected poems by Abha Iyengar

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Woman’s Cry 

And then one day, we tried to change things,
Make them better for ourselves
Now we are single and alone
We've paid a heavy price for our freedom.

Slavery is hard to bear, so is freedom,
One finds you in chains,
The other delivers you to the world.
One makes you bear the onslaught of one on one,
The other makes you pit yourself against many
That's why so many surrender
Even after the battle is won.

Don't give up, fight hard,
It may destroy you,
But you are making the world a saner place
For the daughters that follow.

*****

So Particular 

The apple was so good
red and firm
ready to be bitten
for the sweet tartness
to flow over your lips.
You turned it around
just to make sure
and found the worm
had already made its place
inside.

Who asked you to be
So particular?

*****

 

The Moon Laughs

Caterwauling through life
We did not think of the moon then
It did not symbolize wanting to us.
And now we claw towards it
With outstretched hands
And bared nails.
Its reflection
Laughs at us
In the rippled waters. 

*****

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.

*****

 

A MATTER OF TIME  (a short story)

My eyes watered as the dust stung them even as I tried to shield myself from the storm that was building up. I entered the old library on Arya Samaj Road in Karol Bagh. The Ghalib Library was now a ramshackle, decrepit building that had a drab yellow look speckled with the black of fungi and disuse; much like the mottled, unkempt look of a street dog trying to survive in a world that cared little for the old and destitute.

I covered my face with a shawl and made my way into the big hall which housed the books. It was lit with a few bulbs which hung naked from the ceiling on long, black wires and cast a shadowy illumination. The place was dusty and the musty smell of old books made breathing difficult. Smoked light filtered in from huge windows which had not been opened for long, and now could not be opened due to rust and age. The light was hazy since a fine film of soot covered each window. Shadows leapt from corners, and the place needed getting used to. There were huge tables of old teak wood, once beautiful and polished, now scratched and unkempt. Whoever wished to sit there had to do his/her own cleaning of the space required, or let it be as it were.

There was an old librarian who with his long red beard and wrinkled face, his black “salwar-kameez” stiff with the dirt of days gone by looked as dated as the books there. He was thin and bespectacled, and peered over his glasses with rheumy eyes when addressed by the stray student who came to the library. He spent most of his time dozing with his feet up on a wobbly chair which would have broken by now under a weight greater than his.

I made it past him with ease, and my eyes adjusted to the dark. Shelves upon shelves of dusty books greeted me. It was not that I was a stranger here, I came here often to do research for my paper on Urdu poets and poetry and their relevance to modern times. I was well versed in Urdu, a language which was fast dying in a country which laid much stress on the English tongue. In fact, I was fluent in all three languages commonly spoken here- English, Hindi, and Urdu. My love for language was born in the days when I sat on my Grandfather’s knee and he read out from the newspapers to me. Much of my earlier education could be attributed to him. Then my own lust for the written word took over, and I studied privately, and sat for the examinations privately as well. I could not afford schooling of any kind, and whatever I learnt was self-taught. The Ghalib Library did not charge any fees for its use, and I could borrow books without any problem. In any case, there were few takers of these tomes which dealt with art, philosophy, history and literature. Such subjects were shunned by my contemporaries who pursued economics and computer science with zeal.

The wind whooshed outside. I walked up to one of the shelves and dislodged a book for reference. I coughed as the dust entered my mouth. Quietly I went and sat on one of the tables. The light bulb above swung wildly in the wind which sneaked in from the slits and cracks of the building. I opened the reference book and stared at the pages, my eyes suddenly watering. I had been feeling a sense of helplessness ever since my grandfather had passed away a few days back in the town of Aligarh. I had been unable to say goodbye to him, since I did not have enough funds to pay for the bus travel there. Moreover, my thesis submission was just round the corner. I knew that he would not have wanted me to come to his side at the expense of the degree that I strove for. Suddenly overcome with grief, I closed my eyes and the tears traced a weird pattern on the pages I had opened.

I opened my eyes and looked down. I tried to wipe the pages, but they blurred in front of me. A gust of wind rose and a stray leaf from a book flew on to the desk. It was weathered and torn, yellowed and frayed with age. An Urdu couplet in bold calligraphy sprung in front of my eyes. I could not but read it. It said, ‘Make yourself reach for the skies so high that before writing your Fate, even God asks you, “Tell me what it is that you wish.”’ It was a famous quote by the Urdu poet Iqbal, and one much loved by my Grandfather. A vision of him appeared before my eyes as he would rock me to sleep and sing these verses into my ear.

I wiped my tears and got to work. This is what my Grandfather was telling me to do, to get on with my life and achieve my goals. So immersed was I in my work that I did not realize that it was time for the library to close. I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up, startled.

“Beti,* you must go now. Take the book with you if you wish. Be sure to return it within the week.” The old librarian was standing behind me. I looked up apologetically.

“Forgive me; I did not keep track of the time.”

“This happens,” he said, nodding sagely. “I am happy to see that someone is studying these old books. See how they lie, neglected and abandoned.” He gave a sigh.

I looked at the books. They had sent me a message. They were still connecting with those who were willing to read their thoughts.

I walked up to them and put my cheek against them. I would come here whenever I felt lost or lonely. I knew my grandfather would speak to me through them.

I had cheeks streaked with dust and grime, but my heart felt light and bright. The dust storm was over, rain had fallen, and the setting sun threw red-gold rays through the grey sky. I smiled and began running to catch the last bus home. I knew I would make it in time.

The paper with the Urdu couplet? The wind had snatched it away from me, a leaf in the air amongst others.

****
*Beti- daughter