Why Are You Here? by Radhika Iyer

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Why Are You Here? is a collection of short stories featuring women and their ability to survive despite difficult circumstances.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

She could not return home, not like this. Abandoned. Useless. She could envisage the reaction of her family, who would not reject her, although deep in their hearts they would want to. She would be a burden for the rest of her life.

Radhika Iyer. Why are you here? (Kindle Locations 750-751). Castles in the Air Press.

Book Cover: Why Are You Here? by Radhika Iyer

Why Are You Here? By Radhika Iyer is the first book published by Castles In The Air Press. 

Radhika was born in Malaysia, a daughter to immigrant parents. They were Indian first and Malaysian second, and this is how they raised her. The Indian community represents only 10% of the total population. Radhika felt like a minority within a minority, being part of a smaller group within the Indian community. It leads to an identity struggle, made worse when she moved to England and later Dubai. 

Many of the stories in Why Are You Here? are based on this struggle. It represents Indian women in a battle for identity and acceptance. As well as complex topics like obesity, rejection, abuse, racism, and stereotyping.

The Why Are You Here? Stories

Why Are You  Here? consists of twelve stories and is not for the fainthearted.

A Circle of Colour

What stood out for me in A Circle of Colour is how the author makes you think the story’s focus is the protagonist’s umbrella. It is introduced early in the story, and the author explains at great length how she came by it and how she uses it in her daily life. But in the end, she uses it surprisingly, and it ends up discarded in a dark alley.

Beach Tales

Although the title  Beach Tales makes you think of happy times at the beach, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Although it is about families at the beach, these are not good times since it shows incidences of child abuse with no protest from the parents. And it shows the tragedy of a father rejecting his daughter for something she can’t control.

Lockdown Tips

In Lockdown Tips, the author uses the title with a double meaning. You immediately connect it with the lockdowns during the pandemic, and at first, it seems as if this is the topic of the story. But it turns out to be a different type of lockdown, although the aim is still to ensure the protagonist’s safety. 

The Rear Arrangement

The author combined ‘rear’ and ‘arrangement’ to introduce the theme of this story. In The Rear Arrangement, Seetha’s parents are trying in vain to arrange a marriage for her. Regardless of how positive the meetings seem, she will receive some form of rejection a few days later. What Seetha looks for in a groom is the one thing she has. And it is this very same thing that is the reason for every groom rejecting her as a possible bride. 

Seetha considered herself beautiful. She had large eyes fringed with heavy lashes, an aquiline nose, and plump lips, set in a round face. She had thick cascading curls. Her only flaw was her rather large posterior. It was such a wide expanse of anatomy, a protruding phenomenon.

Radhika Iyer. Why are you here? (Kindle Locations 434-436). Castles in the Air Press.

Bride of Flames

Bride of Flames stood out for me as one of the most horrible and tragic stories in this collection. It shows that all arranged marriages aren’t always happy and that people are often motivated by greed. Sadly, abuse does happen, and often people stand by watching, thereby passively consenting. 

Also Read:  The Drowning Land by David M Donachie

Unbreathable Journey

Unbreathable Journey deals with people’s ignorance about cultural differences. They don’t understand the differences between various Indian groups. They are insensitive and stereotype others based on this ignorance. 

Why Are You Here?

Why Are You Here? are written in a dialogue format, going in circles, finding no answers, and reaching no conclusion. It represents women’s struggles to be strong in their own identities, recognised and accepted, and protected against violence and abuse. The same thing society often strifes for but so seldom accomplishes.

 What’s In A Pub?

 What’s In A Pub? Although people can visit pubs, they need to follow stringent rules due to the pandemic. The story shows the rigidity of these rules, and how it impacts on one women’s life. 

Illegitimate Chain

Illegitimate Chain is another story that made my soul tremble. It shows how one mistake can change someone’s life forever. But even more, the cruelty that such a person has to endure, isolated from everybody else, and her only friend is the milkman. 

Revenge of the Bins

In Revenge of the Bins, neighbours use petty acts against each ever, rather than communicate to sort out their issues.

The Dancer

In The Dancer, Sithara Nakshatram always wanted to be a star, but instead, she dances during weddings for lower-class castes. She always keeps to the rules, with people hardly noticing her performances. Until the day the liquor isn’t delivered to a wedding, and most people leave to go to the grooms’ house where they took it. It is then that Sithara broke all the rules and dances the way she always wanted. 

A Bonfire of Shoes

The final story is A Bonfire of Shoes. A husband’s abuse leads to a miscarriage, and in an act of defiance, the mother burns his black, shiny shoes. Her daughter wants to follow suit, but she can only throw one of her old school shoes in the fire before her father puts it out. 

What did I like?

I like the way the author uses dialogue and the viewpoints of the different female characters to let us experience their thoughts and feelings. We share in their pain and helplessness. In some of these stories, the protagonists are nameless. It helps us to associate with them as if it is all happening to us. Also, you feel as if you don’t exist without a name, which is how many of these women are feeling.

The author uses descriptive language to make her culture come alive, from cultural clothing to traditional food. 

She dared herself to raise her head slightly to glance at the sweet-smelling ghee fried sweetmeats glistening invitingly on the coffee table.

Radhika Iyer. Why are you here? (Kindle Locations 396-398). Castles in the Air Press. 

The author also provides links to a glossary at the end of the book to explain unfamiliar cultural words to the reader. 

Why Are You Here promo image.

With this collection of stories, the author raises awareness of many women’s challenges: racism, stereotyping, being seen as inferior, abuse and violence. Incredibly, she is making a difference by donating 10% of the proceeds of every book to The Immigrant Council of Ireland.

And not so much?

As a woman, I’ve found these stories difficult to read. I am horrified by the terrible things done to women, often under the disguise of tradition or religion. It left me very unsettled, and I struggle to comprehend how these things can be done to women. It is the very reason why we should read books like this so that we can join in the fight to protect these women from abuse and violence. And so that we can recognise women for the valuable contribution they can make to society. 

Also Read:  Bloodstone: The Curse of Time by M.J. Mallon

So, what I don’t like has nothing to do with the book perse, but for every story told in this book, many women live it today.

Should you read Why Are You Here?

Although the stories in Why Are You Here? are hard to read, it is crucial to be aware of the injustices in the world. Many of these incidents go unnoticed because it happens behind closed doors. But we need to learn what signs to look out for,recognise them, and report them to the authorities. We should all join in the fight to stop violence and abuse against women and make the world a safer place. 

Another book in this category is Victim 2 Victor by Anu Verma. It is a true story of sexual abuse, starting in her childhood and following her through life. Until she learned to stand up for herself, and through therapy, became a survivor. 

The collection explores various types of abuse against women and children. We know that abuse affects the victims not only physically, but also on an emotional and psychological level. If you become aware of someing getting abused – besides reporting it to the authorities – how can you help and support a victim? We would love to hear from you. Please share with us in the comments?

Follow Radhika Iyer

Twitter | Goodreads | Interview | Amazon

Book Info

Language:

English

Print Length:

308 pages

Publication Date:

6 May 2017

Text-to-Speech | Screen Reader | Enhanced Typesetting | Word Wise

Categories: Medical Thrillers

Trigger Warnings: Euthanasia | Marital Violence | Sexual References | Profanity

Check out the 💕Books I love! 💕

Hi! I am Susan

Welcome to my adventure

Why Read or Rot?

I have started reading at the age of four. I can remember how I often read under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to sleep.

During my early school years, we visited the library once a week. I couldn’t pick out my new book fast enough! By the end of the period, I would have finished it already, leaving me with nothing to read for the rest of the week!

Growing up, Fridays was the highlight of my week. Dad would pack the whole family into the car, and off we go! You guessed right – to the library! We were a family of readers.

In my adult years, I’ve developed a variety of interests like technology, photography, gardening and even writing. But reading was and will always be a part of my life!

Reading for me is like breathing. If I cannot read, my soul will quietly rot away

Hi! I am Susan

Welcome to my adventure

Why Read or Rot?

I have started reading at the age of four. I can remember how I often read under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to sleep.

During my early school years, we visited the library once a week. I couldn’t pick out my new book fast enough! By the end of the period, I would have finished it already, leaving me with nothing to read for the rest of the week!

Growing up, Fridays was the highlight of my week. Dad would pack the whole family into the car, and off we go! You guessed right – to the library! We were a family of readers.

In my adult years, I’ve developed a variety of interests like technology, photography, gardening and even writing. But reading was and will always be a part of my life!

Reading for me is like breathing. If I cannot read, my soul will quietly rot away

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Radhika Iyer

    Thank you so much Susan for taking the time to read the entire book! Your detailed review, and your insightful interpretation of every story are deeply appreciated. I will be sharing this review on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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