Abha Iyengar

[box]Abha Iyengar’s ‘Blue Sky’ addresses the rasa Adbhutam (Wonder) and is a story of hope after misery. Her second story, ‘Inner Room’ focuses on the rasa, Bībhatsam (Disgust) and is set in a beauty parlour. Read on.[/box] [box type = “bio”]

Abha Iyengar is an internationally published freelance writer and poet. 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 has contributed to popular anthologies in the U.S. ‘The Simple Touch of Fate’, ‘Knit Lit Too’ and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ are some of these. Her work has appeared in literary journals like Moon dance, Raven Chronicles, Gowanus Books, Tattoo Highway,Tryst3, Bewildering Stories, Kritya, River Babble, Enlightened Practice, Poet Works Press, Fabulist, Door Knobs and Body Paint, Citizen 32, Arabesques Review among others. Abha also has a book of poems, ‘Yearnings’, a collection of flash fiction, ‘Flash Bites’ and  a fantasy novel, ‘Shrayan’ to her credit. To know more about her, visit [/box]

Adbhutam | Blue Sky

Two months ago, Rashmi had had acid thrown on her face as she was sleeping. Her husband, Munna, had come home and found her asleep, and she had not cooked the evening meal for him. He had not found any work that day, he told the lawyer later when she asked him the reason for this act. He was angry and hungry, he added, his face not showing any shame. “Reason enough, don’t you think?” he had asked, and hoped for a positive response, some support for his action.

The lawyer had said to him instead, “I’ll see you in jail.” He had almost spat on her face, then changed his mind and spat on the floor. The paan he had been chewing left a brown stain on the floor.

Rashmi heard all this in the hospital. She could not see, her eyes had been scarred by the acid. It was perhaps good that her sight was gone, she thought, for she could not see her own disfigured face. However, a miracle had happened. A doctor was willing to examine her eyes and see if he could restore her sight. She was waiting for this at the hospital. She had not wanted the examination, but Sunita, her fifteen-year-old daughter, had been insistent. Sunita had stayed close to Rashmi ever since that fateful night.

“Rashmi, we can only operate on your right eye. The other eye is beyond repair,” the doctor said.

Rashmi accepted this. She did not have any hope but she went ahead with the operation on Sunita’s insistence.


 “Rashmi, open your eye,” the doctor said. He removed the bandages covering her eye. She had resigned herself to blackness and was sure she would see nothing. Life was futile.

She opened her eye slowly, unable to bear the pain of facing the truth. But her eye began to focus, to see colour, to see shapes. She was wonder struck. She had forgotten how beautiful the world was. She glanced towards the window and saw the blue sky.

“Thank you, doctor,” she said.

He held her hand and told her, “You are very brave. And you will soldier on.”

Her lawyer was standing there, so was her daughter. They came up to her and she hugged them both. “Now I will not give up,” she said. She spoke softly through her distorted mouth, “My husband, Munna, should be punished, lawyer Sahiba. He has finished my life.”

“Yes,” said her lawyer, “one life is finished, your life with him. But you will have a new life. We will find a doctor to restructure your face. It will take time, but it will happen.”

“A new life. An independent life.” She looked out once more with wonder. She could see the blue sky.  “Thank God, I am alive.”


Bībhatsam | Inner Room

The SonaRupa Beauty Parlour was small but clean. The lady behind the counter wore hot pink lipstick on a pockmarked face and several beads around her neck. Srishti began to wonder if she had been too clever in choosing a cheap, nearby place, but quietened her misgivings. The place was clean, and the young girl waiting to attend to the customers was simply dressed and neat. The salon was deserted and there was no other customer, so she would be readily attended to.

Srishti told the lady, who obviously owned and ran the parlour,  that she wanted a haircut and a manicure.

As the ends of her hair were chopped and fell to the floor, Srishti closed her eyes. By the time she opened them, the girl had soaked Srishti’s hands in warm sudsy water for the manicure.

A woman walked in, and seeing the new customer, the lady behind the counter ordered the girl, “Sona, Rupa ko bulao!”

The girl was painting Srishti’s nails. She looked up and Srishti nodded. Sona went into the room leading inside from the parlour. She came out and said, “Ma, Rupa is not well. She is vomiting.”

The owner’s face changed. She asked the other customer to wait and went inside. There was the sound of a slap, a stifled cry and then some more slaps.

Srishti did not know what to do. It seemed strange to be sitting there getting her hands painted with colour while someone was being beaten inside. The customer who had walked in, walked out, she obviously had no time for all this.

Srishti stopped the girl, Sona, in mid -brush and got up. She pushed open the door with Sona following close behind, pleading, “No, ma’am, please don’t go in there.”

The parlour owner was beating a young girl around the same age as Sona. The girl lay shivering, covered with her own vomit, on the floor.

“Don’t do this,” Srishti shouted, running in, “I’ll report this to the police.”

“Madam, stay out of this. It is not your business. And police? What will the police say or do? She is my daughter. I can do what I want with her.”

“Don’t you touch her.”

“Please make your payment and leave.”

Srishti moved to pick Rupa up, but the parlour owner pushed her away. “My home, madam. Rupa, my child. You leave now.”

“You will not hit her.”

“I won’t madam, okay?” she said with a sneer. “Now go!”

Srishti found herself staring helplessly. She could not stay there forever.

She walked out of that place, her nails half -coloured, and her self smudged forever with the knowledge that a mother could heartlessly and shamelessly beat her sick child and get away with it.

She went home and vomited, loathing the reality of such inner rooms. She would revisit the room again and again in her mind, hating its existence.

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