Review of Invasion written by Heena Jadav Sunil. Editorial support by Aisha Jabeen
Invasion – Humanity Triumphs
Heena Jadav Sunil’s short story titled ‘Invasion’ is an extremely bold yet sensitive attempt to unearth a largely ignored issue in our society. To a naive reader, it may come across as disturbing, yet it conveys a message that draws our attention to a problem to which society has turned deaf ears. We have been trained to think of religion as sacrosanct, a practice that can never go wrong and something that we must abide by unfailingly. It is these assumptions that ‘Invasion’ deftly critiques and questions through the story of Shiv and Gauri. While Gauri is the protagonist who has undergone a life-destroying event, Shiv is a character whose relationship with Gauri is not specified. Despite this lack of clarity, Shiv and Gauri’s relationship comes across as endearing to readers. The reader can make out that they are bound by the relationship of humanity – paramount than any other affiliation in this world. The story of the troubles and trauma that Gauri goes through has been aptly described by the author.
The pain that she endures is visible through the language employed in the story. The thrust of the story revolves around sensitive issues such as child sexual abuse, child marriages and marital rape that still plague our existence. These are issues that we prefer to remain silent about as they are deeply connected to our religious beliefs. Not many would want to step out of the comfort of their religious beliefs and tell a story that completely shakes one’s assumptions and beliefs in the values and culture that we so passionately adhere to.
Mummy’s voice rang in my head, “even if it pains you should make him happy. Don’t deny him the sex … People will see you with utmost respect.’’
In a slow motion I took my clothes off. I don’t want this respect. I just want to go home.
The reader will be able to relate to Gauri’s story, her pain and sufferings and the manner in which she emerges triumphant. However, there is an air of despondence to the story as the reader might feel stuck in a situation that is not so positive and may not result into a very hopeful scenario. The use of ‘religion’ as a metaphor is also quite evident from the work. In present times, full of religious extremism and intolerance the story will be able to strike the right chord with those who are committed to eradicating evil practices that thrive in the name of religion. At the same time, it may also offend those who perceive it as a critique of a particular religion. Religion is a sensitive issue and as a matter of one’s faith, we may not be accommodative of the criticism of our own religious practices. Gauri’s story, apart from being a critique of the underlying hypocrisy of religious beliefs and values is also a story of ‘agency’ and ‘empowerment’ being imparted to a vulnerable character. Religion only serves a representative purpose in the story; the larger message is for humanity to be sensitive to ‘others’. As a society that is taking giant strides towards modernization and globalization with the help of technology, we still have a long way to go before we can address grave issues that affect our children, women and marginalized sections of society. ‘Invasion’ promotes a message that goes beyond the narrow understanding of religion, rituals, values and culture to address a larger audience that will be able to empathize with the injustices perpetrated in the society in the name of appeasing God.
… There was no reply to my cry. There was nothing but just the scary silence building up into a tornado inside me. Mummy was not around! Even if anybody heard my screams, they would not open the door to help me.
The need of the hour according to the author is to go beyond our limited understanding and look at issues from the prism of humanity. Only then can this world claim to have socially sensitive humans who venture beyond their selfish interests and think about the ‘other’. The premise that ‘Invasion’ addresses is not unknown, it is all out in the open for us to think about. The manner in which the author deals with such a sensitive issue by operating on the broader canvass of humanity is what makes the story an interesting read. The story is deeply engaging as the reader travels along with Shiv and Gauri, not knowing what Gauri has been through and how Shiv is helping her out (though one can easily make out that something terribly wrong has occurred with Gauri).
… But, the thing between his thighs jabbed me recklessly… Hunger overcrowded my stomach, breaking me.
Until the end of the narrative, this speculation about the real situation faced by Gauri keeps the reader hooked. At one point it even comes across as mysterious. One can also relate to the inner strength, resilience and conviction that Gauri exhibits. Through the use of a fictional setting, the message that ‘Invasion’ conveys will certainly have a long lasting impact on the reader’s mind. At the core of ‘Invasion’ lies a belief in humanity and human values, a belief that a day will soon come when we will transcend the innumerable barriers that set us apart to unite for a just cause. This is a must read for those who despite all the gloom that surrounds us are still convinced with the healing power of human values.
I wandered out of the chamber, to withdraw to my dorm. A soon as I came at the opening of the stairs I heard someone say my name from behind me. I turned around to see who it was. My left foot remained in mid-air, at the edge of the stairs, and I gawked at him; hooked and astounded by his mysterious forceful presence. Leaning against a column in the corridor with his thumbs inside his jeans pocket, he grandly stood. Of course I was day-dreaming. But he looked so alive.
I was woozy. I closed my eyes praying.
“God please… not my bones…….”
I did not fall? Finally.
His thin silk shirt crumbled between my fingers. I factually hung at the edge of the stairs, clasping onto his shirt. I managed to steady my footing firmly seizing his shirt, and thankfully balanced myself from falling. But, mercilessly, I ended up exposing the delicate curves of a chest, which a moment ago was buttoned inside the dark purple silk shirt. His shirt buttons tortuously went sprinkling all over the stairs. Oh, his gorgeous smell was enthralling! I had never known anyone who smelled so bewitchingly enticing.
Clutching his extended hand, I tipped my head back, to shift my line of vision from his lean six-packed chest, to his face. His left hand tightly clasped my waist, and with subtle touch of fingers he hauled me closer. Oh god! He was young, around twenty two-twenty three. Ginger blonde hair fell over his pale forehead, sparsely masking his thin brows. His softly flushedthin lips, brutally seductive, curled on the sides as he smiled. My eyes traced the shape of his soft alluring lips; his tight oval jawline loosened slightly, but his features otherwise became blank.
I breathed heavily-watching my visitor in total horror. With just the few breaths that I supposed were left inside me, I landed on the floor, holding the doorpost. I put my palm over my eyes and sighed profoundly.
In seconds I was tugged at my arms, and pulled up by two handsomely masculine hands. I opened my eyes when he made me stand straight. He was wearing a sky blue button down silk shirt and faded grey skinny jeans; he stood there like the one and only, Mr Cosmos.
“Sister Mercy is on a round,” I groaned.
“I asked her to pull out Ami for me, she won’t let anyone come here until I leave,” he murmured.
“Richard you have lost it completely,” I fretfully whispered.
Trailing the scratch mark over my neck with his finger, he winced, hugging me instantly “Are you alright? I was….”
I jerked out from his grip, although my body desired to remain in this warm cuddle for ever, but neither was this the right place nor the right time and definitely not the right way.
“Go away Richard…you’ve already made your point clear, I get it, now please stop torturing me like this,” I mumbled.
Grabbing my waist he pushed me into the wall on the left side of the door in the corridor. His body pressed over mine. Tilting his head he brought his lips at the edge of my mouth. “The most important point I still haven’t spelled out to you, April. And I don’t blame your brain for not recognising my silent promises,” his eyes trailed the curves of my lips. I was already panting to breathe. His lips began trailing the curve of my neck, the back of my ears, and then again he stopped at the edge of my lips, “But, you can’t just ask me stop intruding your life. You don’t have the right to tell me I don’t have any right over you, when I relentlessly breathe inside you. When I live inside you. You just can’t ask me to do something I can’t endure.”
“I’m your destruction.”
“Yes you are and I want to be destroyed in you.”
“You are going to get us both killed someday…. I frankly speaking don’t mind dying….. but then….” I was blabbing immaterially, and Richard put a finger over my lips. He must be wondering whether I have lost my senses, how less did he know that it was something inborn.
He intertwined his fingers in my hair and brushed his lips over the scratch marks on my neck. He cringed, but didn’t say anything. I wondered what he might think of this. And then taking a back-step he unbuttoned his shirt, and I gasped. I was not only breathless but my tongue came between my teeth at the sight of his masculine leonine body, the softly virile ridges of his abdomen made my fingers churn for a touch; I wanted to trace them with my fingers and kiss every inch of it. Ugghhh…
“Wh…what are….yo..u d..oing?” I stammered.
He pulled out something and handed that to me. It was a rolled parchment which was tied with a red ribbon. I took it impulsively and looked at him in bewilderment. He kissed me on my cheeks and paused with his lips over my cheek. He groaned, turned on the left and walked away from there in a sweep of a second, leaving behind a trail of musky fragrance across the dark empty passage.
I ran inside the room, shut the door behind me and sat down on the bed. As I unlaced the red ribbon and uncurled the letter a wave of excitement filled me up…..and I read…..
I don’t know how I should say to you that what I feel for you is stronger than anything I have ever felt. The first time I saw you, it was the most unfortunate occurrence of my actuality but phenomenally I found myself forever caught in the mesmeric gaze of a pair of hazel eyes – your eyes. You have seeped within my vision since then, it was your eyes or your very survival that seized me truly, is something I still cannot decrypt. When you said that I haven’t the decency to even see you with a common impartial glance – I recoil with shame and laugh at the enigma of your simple complaint……
I never see you; yet I have observed your hair glow the colour of your eyes in the sun and when you leave them open they dance below your waist; tempting me to – I’m sorry but please understand I’m just being a human here – tempting me to passionately make love to you. Feel your warm body move sexily beneath me…..How ardently I admire your skin shine the softest of pink and your lips…your soft petal lips quiver whenever you are worried, troubled or nervous…..how many millions times I have dreamt – if I could dream – that I part them with my lips and lay them over mine incessantly, kissing you, and feeling them melt inside my mouth. I have never got enough….I will never get enough even if I kiss you for eternity……………..
“Can death have a voice? Well mine did.“
When April first saw Richard she was fifteen. When Richard first saw April, she was a new born baby. As long Richard exists, April believes she will survive…..And as long as Richard exists, he will not allow her to diminish. Staying away from April is a providence Richard has to endure forever-he CANNOT love her, but staying away from her is a battle already lost at its dawn.
Please allow me momentarily gate you into the realm of the stars, when an Equinox precession, occurring after three hundred years, rigidly bottled the lives of two paradoxical beings, destining them to never part….