Two of my poems are included in this anthology that celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank. Congrats to all the other writers featured here and thanks to the editors for putting together this amazing collection.
February 4, 2019
Book Title: I Exist. Therefore I Am
Author: Shirani Rajapakse
Format: Kindle edition
The title of the book is ‘I Exist. Therefore I Am’ is very strong and interesting.
The book cover is the digital image of the ‘Woman’ symbol underwater. Which clearly gives a picture that the womanhood is getting drowned in the water, either dead or looking for survival.
Our land is a place where Goddesses are worshipped and respected in an utmost way by everyone. But most of the people fail to treat the Woman and show insolence towards them. Sometimes, they are tormented by the society and family in a physical and mental way which forces them to take the unexpected treacherous decisions. The pain woman take is unexplainable and her toil is inappreciable.
The author has penned down the trauma and soreness which woman goes through in her stories.
The characters in the stories will show how rude the society is towards the woman and how they treat her when she is in twinge. While reading each story the reader will feel the chills in the spine. The horrifying stories and the disturbing plot will leave the reader in fury.
The pitiful stories of a mother, newly married woman, an aspiring young woman, widowed woman are presented in the book. Read this mind alarming book by Shirani Rajapakse.
What I like:
The plot of the stories is good and the characterization is good and stirring.
What I didn’t like:
In particular, there are no negatives which can be pointed out. The stories are way too tragic and make the reader feel pity about the life of a woman.
The narration in all the stories is very well and it is easy to read.
Language & Grammar:
A clear language with neat and uncomplicated grammar is used in the book
My Final Verdict:
A book that focuses on the harrowing issues which women face in day to day life and to be read by everyone especially the youngsters.
Book Title: 3/5
Book Cover: 3/5
Language & Grammar: 4/5
Final Rating: 3/5
Rajapakse has traveled to India often, and these stories “…were written at two stages of my life and represents the eight years I spent in India, working and travelling to cities and also some of the remote places where I encountered many instances of negativity towards women and girls. Some of the incidents I came across or heard about are too painful to recount or fictionalize. The tales I have included here are a mere fraction of the lives touched during my stay.”
In “Drink Your Milk and Go to Sleep,” a married woman continues to carry girls while her husband and mother-in-law want a boy child. Her family takes her to a midwife who “…was famed for helping women with problems. She must be good because women from all over the land visited her to find solutions to their sorrows. She didn’t talk much. There was no time for any words as it was obvious why we were all there. She had lots of customers like me waiting to be served every day. She gave me something to drink when I got home.”
As a widow, Gayathri Devi was “…waiting to die” in the story “On Death Row.” In the beginning of the story, Gayathri Devi “…had been sitting here in the same place for a while, not caring about what happened around her. She’d seen the colors change in the sky a thousand and one times and more and was no longer interested. Was no longer overjoyed. She no longer anticipated the fading beauty of the end of the day as she did the first time she arrived.” The widows “…were a burden on the young, an unnecessary life that needed to be cared for, fed, clothed and helped along the way. There was no time, no money or room left in houses for the likes of these women that passed their expiration date and were still sitting on the shelf, when whatever little money the families had were needed for the hungry mouths to feed, the demands of school and the dowries to be collected throughout their lives. Women like Gayathri Devi were put aside and left to themselves and what better way to get rid of the unwanted than to send them to God.”
The collection’s title comes from the story “I Exist. There I Am.” Those words are the opening line and the refrain carried throughout the story. “I rest deep inside you, wrapped up tight like an old woman swathed in quilts in the desert during winter when it’s too cold to do anything but sit by the fire and wish it was summer once again.” “You see me through the folds of fat projected onto the screen and can only discern a small shape with a centre that beats like a drum. The sound and rhythm unlike the drums they played at your union, but a drum just the same. Thudak, thudak, thudak, it beats softly. You place your hand on your stomach but you can’t feel me, nor can you hear the drum beats of my heart pounding inside me. Only the machine can tell you that.”
And in “Secrets” “Rules kept the family together, rules made things work the way it was supposed to.”
Each story is heart breaking in its own way. I can’t even begin to imagine the stories that were too painful to recount or fictionalize. Rajapakse’s prose is as strong as her poetry. The characters’ pain is real and their circumstances resonate. I hope for a brighter future.
January 1, 2019
You can’t mold me into
something you want—those
rough hands trying to create
dreams that can only shatter.
You are no sculptor and cannot shape
perfection from mud nor
chisel beauty out of a slab of granite.
I am flesh and blood
just like you.
Not made of clay or rubber that
bends at your will.
Don’t even try to change me
for you will not like the person
I might become in your hands.
Leave me as I am and let me
mold myself as I have done all this while.
I am an individual, a human.
Not a doll made of plastic
or wood that you take out to play
when it pleases you.
Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and short story writer. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her critically acclaimed poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (self published 2017) won the 2018 Kindle Book Awards. It received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Awards and was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing. Her recently published short story collection I Exist. Therefore I Am is also about women and is set in India. Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies around the world. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.
Thanks for the Chatworthy Read Badge. That was a lovely surprise.
This collection of short stories by highly acclaimed Sri Lanka author Shirani Rajapakse has touched me and left me with one dire, unanswered question: Why?
‘I exist. Therefore I am’ is written in a very quiet, yet poetic style. For the difficult topic it addresses, it uses no drama and no judgment. The stories tell individual episodes of lives of women in India from all ranges of society, thereby drawing a devastating picture of an entire culture. Even before I read the book I knew that women are not highly regarded and suffer a lot in India. Arranged marriages, infanticide and lack of rights or education were familiar topics. But the depth of hatred running deep in the mindset of an entire people shocked me and left me speechless.
‘Why?’ I asked myself after every story. Why would a mother poison her newborn child, just because it was a girl? Why would a girl spend all of her family’s money just to get a socially acceptable husband? Why, oh why would a woman douse her daughter-in-law in kerosene and burning oil and watch her burn to death? And why are these things not only accepted by the majority, but passed on through generations?
For me, the most striking piece of the collection is the one that gave the book its title. The reader gets to share the thoughts of an unborn girl from first awareness to the point of abortion. As a Christian and a mother of two (I would be highly esteemed in India, having borne two sons!) it is inconceivable how women can be put under so much pressure (by other women!) that they begin to hate that which they are called to love and protect, nourish and raise.
It makes me sad and calls me to pray for a nation hopelessly lost and without love. This is a far cry from Bollywood!
I read the book knowing it was not an easy topic. I’m glad I read it because I cannot close my eyes to the fate of millions, even if they live far away. The author has done a marvelous job in portraying each of the women without making it garish sensationalism. Her calm recounting of facts and feelings make the stories digestible, despite their often cruel contents; and her poetic language give the thoughts and feelings depth and beauty.
In the introduction she states that she has lived in India for eight years, taking the risk of leaving the tourist trails to discover the true heart beating in that big and wildly differing country. I commend her for that and for her aim of raising awareness on behalf of women who are so deeply suppressed they often have no way of standing up for themselves.
I highly recommend this book. It has filled me with gratitude for my own loving family, the respect I am treated with and the freedom I may enjoy every day. I am also deeply grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ, which has given my life purpose and meaning and has established an identity and value as a person that nobody will be able to take from me. I exist. Therefore I am – able to love with the freedom to do so.
My prayers go out to women in India now more than ever.
For the beautiful language used, the touching storytelling that kept me turning the pages and the depth of topic I gladly award ‘I exist. Therefore I am’ a Chatworthy Read badge.