Invasion – Humanity Triumphs

Got this amazing chance to review Heena Jadav Sunil's short story "Invasion". She is a Pakistani novelist whose debut novel Equinox is breaking grounds in the arena of fantasy and fiction writing in Pakistan.

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.

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