Unique anthology of words and pictures from 21st century India

A unique anthology of words and pictures from contemporary India has this week been published worldwide in e-book and paperback.

The collection was created by 10 young writers and a roving photographer from all corners of the vast country and published by award-winning editor in the UK.

The book of poetry, prose, and black & white photography captures modern life and humanity in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Jaipur, Bhiwandi, Cuttack, Kerala and elsewhere.

The project took eight months to complete, with all contributors working through the pandemic lockdown restrictions. Two members of the team were hospitalised during this period but are now both fully recovered.

After 28 years in UK newspaper and magazine journalism multi award-winning editor Nic Outterside set up his own publishing house Time is an Ocean in 2017.

Nic said: “I began editing and publishing books by Indian writers right from the outset of my company.

“A highlight was the widely acclaimed Asian Voices anthology in early 2019, which included 20 writers from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The idea of doing something more current and focused by young people from India came from one of the readers Neelakshi Sharma from Jaipur.

“Neelakshi was just 17 and still at school when she shared her idea. Now she has followed it through over 22 months to publication.”

Spiced Dreams and Scented Schemes has been a true labour of love and I hope everyone who buys our book revels at the diverse writing and the wonderful photography.”

Inspirational student Neelakshi says: “Working with Nic and all these amazing poets and a very talented photographer was something I never imagined. I am beyond happy to be a part of this book.”

Bhavani Krishna, a computer graduate and published author from Chennai in south east India added: “I always wanted to work with Nic after reading Asian Voices and when I got the chance to be a part of this anthology, it’s nothing less than a dream come true moment for me.”

Ayesha Saleem, 20, an English Literature and Philosophy student from Bhiwandi, near Mumbai said: “It has been a great experience to work with Nic and the other Indian poets. I am grateful to be a part of this successful project which we all worked so hard towards.”

Rachel Vincent, 23, an editor and writer from Delhi said: “I have loved working with people from all different cultures and backgrounds and am obliged and overwhelmed for an opportunity to be published internationally.”

Arpita Priyadarsini, a 21-year-old statistics graduate from Cuttack in eastern India added: “It was an amazing experience as I got to work with Nic for the second time. “This book is really close to my heart and we all have tried our best to bring forward everything that will touch your hearts and leave an impact on your life.”

Economics graduate Trijya Garg from Ghaziabad said: “I am a 26-year-old dreamer, and this book has been better than my wildest dreams that have come true. I am humbled to be one of the Indian daughters that poured her heart and soul into words in this book.”

Yusrah Shaikh, an English Literature undergraduate from Bhiwandi said: “I’m honoured to be included in this beautiful book. Through this anthology I got to know many other poets in my own country. It was such a great experience to be part of this.”

Deblina Bhattacharya, 21, an undergraduate student of English literature and published author from Kolkata said: “It has been my immense pleasure to have been a part of this anthology as well as this incredibly supportive community.

“Working with Nic, who has been a long-time friend and the young poets from all over India has been a highly cherished experience.

“I almost missed out on this opportunity when I was abruptly hospitalised amidst all the proceedings, and there wasn’t a day I didn’t cry to have it back.

“It seems it was fate who brought me back to this amazing book once again, a book that is a dream come true; a collection shaped by our struggles, tears, blood and sweat, and our indomitable hope.”

Spiced Dreams and Scented Schemes is available as 6”x9” large format paperback and as a Kindle e-book from most Amazon global portals:

Paperback priced at $8.23 (602 IR) (£5.99)


Kindle e-book priced at $4.11 (300 IR) (£2.99)


New book explores love, death, religion and rape in South Asia


A UNIQUE new book is set to take South Asia by storm as it addresses burning issues such as love, death, rape and religion in the developing sub-continent.

Divided by partition, war and politics, but united by creativity and common humanity, Asian Voices has brought together 20 emerging writers from across the region to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In 37,000 words, across 260 pages, the contributors paint graphic pictures in poetry and prose of issues which divide and unite people in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book is divided into 10 sections: Darkness, Light, Love, Loss, Heaven, Hell, Life, Death, War and Peace.

And it is within these sections that the diverse Asian Voices can be heard.

With an infant mortality rate of 4.4% in India and 6.1% in Pakistan (the UK rate is 0.28%) and an adult death rate of 31% and 21% respectively (UK rate 10.3%) – an even higher rate in war-torn Afghanistan – it is hardly surprising that the issue of death features strongly.

Mortality is dealt with sensitively by the Asian Voices writers in at least three sections of the book.

This extract on coping with grief by Lahore based writer Shahreen Iftikhar is an example:

“They say, there are five stages of grief;

I got stuck in denial, with no reasons to heal.

Is this what life is; scribbles on an empty sheet?

Making no sense, just filling the voids of our being?

I said to myself: ‘To Hell with all this grieving and the misery.

It’s time for me to let go of all the tragedies.’

All I had to do was believe.

That is all it took for me to heal.”


All countries in South Asia live under different degrees of social patriarchy and this is reflected in the treatment of women.

Rape is the third most common crime against women in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, 24,470 (98%) were committed by someone known to the victim. And many more rapes go unreported.

Similarly, physical abuse, house-arrest imprisonment and even bride-burning (now illegal) also go largely unreported.

One of the Asian Voices writers, Janvi from Jaipur has already made a name for herself in calling out for social reform.

This extract speaks volumes:

And then one day we decide to raise our voice 

But again, this society shut us by claiming it as useless noise.

The politicians and the media cry that they worship women and cow!

Is this a way of worshipping? But How?

As our wails grow louder and louder about the demons residing in our own town 

They paint henna on our hands and send us off to an unknown place, looking like a clown.

Wondering that this was not the life that we were destined to live, we decide to put an end

And here you go, creating loads of new monsters and making it Trend.

We are sacrificing ourselves from centuries just so that you know

And here you go, treating us again like the trash that you throw. 

We’ve had enough, being the sacrificed Goddess 

Next time we’ll turn this country into a bloody mess.


Religion also resonates within the pages of the book.

India is home to at least nine recognised religions, and while Islam dominates in Pakistan, there are also significant minorities of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi, and even more diversity in Afghanistan.

So the sections on Life, Heaven and Hell deal with each writer’s views of spirituality and faith.

This piece by 16-year-old Shaheeba from Sibsagar touches many pulses:

How could she survive further?

When her life resided in this heart rate.

Though not here, but in Heaven

They merged to a single soul

Whenever their love tale was evoked

It started raining

Dripping all with pure love.

This flooded the river of love

Which immersed both the fragments of the hamlet

With the virtue of love.

There was love everywhere

Flowing in the winds of hamlet

Residing in the lifeless soil

Felt in the arms of the mother

And in the oneness with God.

Some souls are united in Heaven.

Some stories are plenary despite being partial.


The one thing which binds all the writers together is the eternal subject of Love.

For centuries the Indian sub-continent has given birth to some of the world’s greatest love poets. And they continue to emerge as we enter 2019.

This poem by Agathaa Shelling of Ahmedabad, explores that deepest of all human emotions:

You’re the sanctified sacrament in the shrine of love. I’ll devour you and I’ll become pious forever.

Yes, I’m an atheist and there’s only one religion that I practise. That’s love. And there’s only one deity from whom I receive my hymn… it’s you.

And if this is not love. I don’t know what it is. A little bit of fall in your summer. A little bit of rains in your spring. Sunshine in your winters. And a chilly gust of wind in scorching heat.

“There was once a king of verses. Power were his words. Mightier than any sword. And then there was a queen of metaphors. Deep were her rhymes. Deeper than any ocean.

He weaved a tiara out of his words and she sharpened his sword out of hers.

And that’s how they announced their love, with poetry.”


Minnie Rai, a writer and 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, who now lives in London, sums up the ethos of Asian Voices: “We don’t become by knowing… we become by doing.

“It is in the present we live and share diversity from within outwards. Through love and death we learn the language of war within us that separates us from the truth that sits beside our heart. When we share that truth, we become one… Asian Voices,” she adds.


  • Asian Voices will be published in both paperback and Kindle e-book in February.