I Exist. Therefore I Am won the State Literary Award 2019 in the short story category.
I Exist. Therefore I Am won the State Literary Award 2019 in the short story category.
Here’s what they said about the book.
I Exist. Therefore I Am Shirani Rajapakse
Nine short stories set in India, all well-written stories focusing on discrimination against women in India. Drink Your Milk and go to Sleep is a harrowing tale of gender discrimination and infanticide. The speaker is forced to abort a series of female babies as their sex is detected in the womb, but one survives to full term, only to be murdered by the mother. The second, Shweta’s Journey, is about a woman who is duped by Swamiji, a bogus religious guru who appropriates her wealth and proceeds to govern her life. The third, A Room Full of Horrors, focuses on two female students’ attempts to pay their tuition fees in an institution that feels hopelessly, and some may say maliciously bureaucratic, presided over by the gratuitously unhelpful patriarch, Mr Singh. Other stories address women on death row, women experiencing existential crises, and women caught in the snare of convention and patriarchal expectation. At her best the author’s style is direct and the stories have real force; they seem driven by a powerful sense of frustration and outrage. Poignant and moving, the book deals with issues that require more of a profile.
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.
Correspondent Samonway Duttagupta says the locale is remote and that India boasts far prettier destinations. What’s more, it is overcrowded, everything there is ridiculously expensive and much worse – the climate can become cold enough to cause ill-health and even death.
But he does not describe the large numbers of Kashmiri Muslims who have migrated to the area and whose growing presence has adversely affected the centuries-old Buddhist traditions of those born there. Inevitably, the women are most badly treated and have been brutally shoved to the bottom of the social heap.
So much emerges from Shirani Rajapakse’s A Chill Flew across the Mountains, the penultimate tale in her short story collection, **I Exist. Therefore I Am.
There is never a good moment to read a book like t his and several times I delayed posting my review as I found more and more comparisons between the domestic serfdom that Sri Lankan Rajapakse’s fictional characters endure and the oppressed reality for too many women worldwide.
Believe me: it does not happen only in dramatic fashion to forced labourers in Uzbekistan or to Yazidi sex slaves. It occurs over and again every which way in modern democracies like the UK or even in Israel where following the murder of a Netanya housewife by her husband – a police officer – nationwide public demonstrations were held urging action to stop violence against women.
But I was distressed to note that the protests did not embrace the sort of non-physical but public humiliation meted to some female members of the religious Zionist B’nei Akiva youth movement, whose staged dance performance at a recent event in Katsrin near the Golan Heights was allegedly blacked out for spurious reasons of ‘modesty’.
I was also dismayed that the one woman who actively campaigned to be Karmiel’s new mayor was absent from the local demonstration.
Why did this well-known woman city councillor appear so indifferent to domestic abuse? Was her personal background to blame?
It is often noted that the affairs of the Jewish Diaspora and Israeli communities are a reflective microcosm of what happens outside. Should the answer to the conundrum therefore be the same as to that posed at the heart of Rajapakse’s book?
Why, as we near the close of the eighteenth year of the 21st century and vast numbers of us enjoy the countless advantages that implies, are so many young adult women still bound by antiquated tribal traditions of land, property and paternalism?
More important: why are these outmoded, unwritten laws sustained with such ferocity by family matriarchs so haunted by personal status that they despise the births and then continuing presence of any infant girls?
Must they be reminded of the difficulty of producing future generations without them?
In her introduction, Rajapakse cites a June 2018 global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation that ‘ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women’. No-one will deny that it has plenty of stiff competition!
She also refers to the December 2012 rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandeh (variously nicknamed ‘Nirbhaya’ and ‘Damini’) and other similar incidents that may have helped to change Indian law. But legislation has never altered constitutional prejudice. Only time and patience will do that.
I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse is a collection of disturbingly moving short stories of the atrocities women in rural India confront and the hope they have for a brighter future. The author’s evocative and unforgiving style of writing is what pumps life into the characters as they walk through life fighting various battles.
Gayathri Devi was waiting to die. She had been here for a long time, but it
appeared as though death was in no hurry to come and take her away. Dressed in dirty white with her head shorn, she was one of the many widows
shunned from her family and forced to live a non-existent life.
From the very first page, the pleadings and laments of the oppressed can be heard; the shocking and immoral crimes committed made my hair stand on end. Each story was heart-wrenching, the egregious and grisly ways these women were treated for just being was horrifying. Shirani unrelentingly portrays the plights of women and the atrocities they face due to baseless religious, cultural, and tribal taboos imposed on them. These are a gigantic obstacle, and removing these iniquitous taboos is essential.
Each story highlights the atrocious and odious ways women in rural India are forced to live. In her story Death Row, Shirani portrays the slow and terrible way older widows await death when they are no longer wanted by their families. In her story Drink your Milk and go to Sleep, Shirani highlights unflinchingly the taboo against female child, the awful environment created for women if they birth a daughter.
“There are maggots inside you,” maaji said staring daggers at me.
She let her eyes rest on each one of the family sitting in the room and raised
her voice for effect.
“It’s stuffed with maggots! Her womb is full of maggots!”
Following her award winning poetry collection Chants of a Million Women, these edifying stories highlight the alarming conditions of women in rural India. The beautiful imagery, heart-wrenching truths and the endless hope that women have for a better future makes this an eye-opening read. This book is for the ones who are not afraid to ask questions and ready to dissect baseless beliefs to uncover the layers of trauma and anger that women carry everyday.
You can buy the book here.
Greetings Book readers,
Introducing a new author Shirani Rajapakse on our blog: with her latest book: I Exist. Therefore I am.
This book is collection of nine stories about women in India. These stories portray the struggles, hardships, discrimation they face for being born in this gender. Lets get to know the book more:
A newly married woman burns to death. A mother is forced to kill her infant daughter. A young woman with a promising future becomes a slave to a holy man. A recently widowed woman is left on the bank of a river to die. I Exist. Therefore I Am takes you on a journey into the world of women and the trauma they face for simply being.
Moving yet also disturbing, these nine stories set in India are about internal struggles, desperation, vulnerability as well as yearning for something better. It is about secrets, words that cannot be spoken, social restrictions and smiles that don’t quite reach the eyes.
In story after story, Rajapakse portrays the terrible treatment towards women as a result of religious, cultural and tribal taboos placed on them, and the suffering at the hands not just of society but of their own kind.
This is fiction that is created for readers that aren’t afraid to question society and its beliefs and tear open the wounds to heal the soul.
They describe what it means to be women, the helplessness they are confronted with and the unending hope they have for a better future. Will these women’s sacrifices make a difference or will they have been in vain?
Buy book at:
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.
I Exist. Therefore I Am is her second collection of short stories (self- published, October 2018). Close on the heels of Chant of a Million Women it takes on the theme of women and looks at what it means to be a woman in modern India.
Rajapakse’s work appears in publications around the world including, Flash:The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Litro, Silver Birch, International Times, City Journal, Writers for Calais Refugees, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Citiesplus, Deep Water Literary Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Kitaab, Lakeview Journal, Cyclamens & Swords, New Ceylon Writing, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and in anthologies, Fireflies & Fairy Dust: A Fantasy Anthology (Eu-2 2018), Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Ballads (Dagda 2014), Short & Sweet (Perera Hussein 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel (Plum Tree 2012), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace (Inner City Press 2012 & 2014) and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence (Plum Tree 2012).
She has a BA in English Literature (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka) and a MA in International Relations (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India).
She interviewed, promoted and reviewed books by indie authors on The Writers Space at shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com
Do buy a copy of the book, read and review it on Amazon & Goodreads. Thank you in advance.
Bye. Take care.