Hailing from the land of enigma, Pakistan, Heena Jadav Sunil is a writer-cum-English Language Development Facilitator, to whom writing and reading are means of solace, adding meaning to her life. She was educated at Sophia High School, Mount Abu, and dedicates her debut novel ‘Equinox’ to her Sophian friends, the sisters at her convent and above all her family who shaped her into the woman she is today. She believes that ‘being yourself’ is the most truthful and the happiest way to live.
Ananya Dhawan: What exactly does the name ‘Equinox’ signify – in terms of it being the title of your book?
Heena Jadav: Selecting the perfect title for a book is one job that I found shoddier than coming up with a conclusion to the story. I’m sure you would agree with me here, that a search for the ‘perfect title’ drains you mentally. But, yes I got there eventually… so while devising a title for my book with my friends, I was initially centering my attention on an absolute bond between the two divergent characters. I wanted something along the lines of stars, astronomy, fate and the magic of ‘Equinox’. I kept pondering over an assortment of titles, depicting the compelling inseparability of April and Richard and yet the irony that they cannot be together. My earlier choice was ‘Precession of the Equinoxes’, which has the same meaning as the title selected, but on a narrower scale. However, this title spun around in my head all the time, accompanied with all the gooey ones that used to make entry into our brooding sessions, making me literally pull my hair at times! I think that there couldn’t have been any other title than this as it allows me extra leverage to explore and connect the science of stars and astronomy to bonding and love. ‘Equinox’ is not just a title; it is the most significant moment for April and Richard. The following scene was re-written after I’d finalised the title, it explains it all…
“It’s like I was a star off track, off target, wandering in the cosmos and then suddenly I felt a gravitational pull towards you and I forgot my gait. I began moving retrograde in your direction, just like the precession of the Equinoxes. My soul was absent until you came in my life,” his voice softly caressed the insides of my ears. How similar were our feelings for each other. And, for me he would always remain the sun of my existence. I too felt the same, as if I was a star gone astray in the cosmos, and because of him I found my path, my orbit. He tilted his head bringing his line of vision at me, “Have you heard of torque-induced precession?”
I had read it in astronomy, but had a vague idea about it. I shook my head.
“Hmmmm..” he buried his face in the curve of my neck, again. “You came in my life like an external force. A force so solid that you made a trying saint forget his damn equilibrium.”
I laughed, and kissed his forearm around my neck.
“The moment I spotted you, my axis lost control and I wobbled towards you like a spinning toy similar to torque-induced precession,” he breathed.
AD: The cover page is appealing – whose brainchild is it?
HJ: The credit for this goes to my friend Samreen Syed Masroor.
AD: What do you miss the most about your convent school life?
HJ: I miss everything about my life at Sophia; it was Hogwarts through and through; I miss the red socks, red ribbons, tying hair in two braids, the nuns running around us like Matrix agents, the teachers keeping their hawk eyes over our every move – I miss the desks where we could hide stuff and lock it out of each other’s reach, the batty verbal fights, spending hours pretending to listen to Shakespeare but forming another story altogether in our own heads, gazing outside the classroom at the thick rainfall that would put everything else into a hush, our time when we all reached puberty back to back, the cemetery where we created all kinds of ghost stories and made sure it was taken as a fact – something like the graves moved at nights, and ghosts hammered at the sick room windows adjacent to it, boy and girl crushes (scratch that, it’s a secret), being rebellious and then being dressed down in front of everyone, and right after that going on the stage and performing your best before the audience, morning assemblies, the annual function preparation and annual excursions right after the annual day, the punishments – mine were numerous… Kathak classes with Ms. Santosh – her ruler always worked perfect in making our waists move, singing classes with Sister Lucia – for the whole period we were made to push three fingers into our mouths and sing…phew! Yeah, I miss all of that. Everything.
AD: Do Richard and April exist or have existed in real life, or is ‘Equinox’ totally a work of fiction?
HJ: The fantasy that we used to create as Sophians, of a ‘perfect guy’ is what I have tried to bring alive in the form of Richard Chase. I think it would be so unfair if I agreed that Equinox is totally a work of fiction, even though the characters never existed and do not exist in real in my life, yet they are so alive and existent inside me, that I’m just unable to separate from them. I do not have any friends as close to me as my fictional buddies. I might sound slightly cracked up here, but April and Richard are more real to me than any of the ‘real’ people around.
AD: Has writing always been a part of your life or have you taken to it only recently?
HJ: I have always been a writer. For me writing is like breathing, I cannot see myself exist if I’m not writing. Earlier, I would simply muse over anything and write, but never had I gotten anything published, until recently.
AD: What is the most important requirement in a person to be a writer? Is it talent or practice?
HJ: I think the most important element would be one’s urge and passion to write. Talent and practice are just complimentary, like a cherry on the pie.
AD: Do you plan on making writing your full time occupation?
HJ: Of course! Until the moment Ekta Kapoor adapts my novel into her next sensational T.V. series I’m not going to rock away from making writing my full time job. Only she has the spunk to turn Equinox into a hit soap opera! Besides that if and when I become a bestseller, I’m never going to keep writing secondary in my life. It is my lifeline and I need to breathe more to survive.
It’s a long long journey to success…but how about if I say, I owe my success to lonely hours, the night, the moon, English songs, crazy thoughts, and chocolates.
AD: Tell us a little about your family, and how supportive they are of the work you do?
HJ: I belong to a Hindu Kshatriya family, residing in Karachi-Pakistan. We are Gujaratis from Surat. I live with my husband, son and my brother. Well, these two and a half men have no input whatsoever in my writing. They drive my world so chaotic that I keep looking for liberation. It is from this mayhem that I hunt for solace… they have to ask me a question several times when they know I’m not listening because I’m banging my head around a scene at my laptop, forcing me to snarl at them to repeat it. I don’t have any social life because I have a nine-to-five job, and it sucks that a day has only twenty-four hours. I look like a ghost all the time because I care a dime what anyone’s thinking. I forgot to read my son’s diary to know that it is graduation photo-shoot day at his school (thanks to the class teacher who keeps sending me reminder messages until the day of the event). I’m acting like a suckerpunch because hell, I’m suffering from writer’s block. And, ‘why do they want me to cook dinner when we have a cook?’ Welcome to my splendid world: I’m a total bedlam at home; so yeah, you can in a way say they are extremely supportive.
The place that best describes you – Pakistan, India or London?
Three words to describe ‘Equinox’.
Love, lust, sacrifice.
If one song were to describe your life, which song would it be?
One thing that drives you crazy
My son’s mischief.
What is your pet peeve?
Second-hand/pirated book, and doing a synopsis!
AD: Is Pakistan a conservative country – or is it just the way we look at it?
HJ: I think it is both. Pakistan does have conservatives, including a large portion of a community that makes everything religiously biased. But, there are a certain number of liberal thinkers too, striving to bring a change, and working on that. Since the latter is a small number, mostly people outside don’t know about these communities (thanks to the media). Hence, the former are always in the headlines. Our media is growing and maturing, and very soon we’ll be able to highlight those changes to the world. It is a long journey, but I’m sure people will change their perception of us in general. I’m one of the examples here, of the change I’m talking about; I have taken a bold step to break all the barriers of the clichéd writing style of authors from Pakistan. Being the first Hindu female Pakistani author, I have blatantly gone against the norms and released Equinox (an adult/young adult fantasy romance).
AD: What does love mean to you? Do you believe in its existence?
HJ: Do I believe in the existence of love? I’d be damned if I didn’t. Love for me means to feel the sun from both sides. It is like, even when the world for you is flooded in eternal nightfall, the sun continues shining upon you bright and beautiful. That is true love for me.
AD: To what or whom do you owe your success?
HJ: Am I successful? YAY! No, but on a serious note, I don’t think I’m successful as yet. It’s a long long journey to success…but how about if I say, I owe my success to lonely hours, the night, the moon, English songs, crazy thoughts, and chocolates. Yeah, so far these have been absolutely the drive to my success.
AD: A few words for budding authors.
HJ: Write. Even when you find hundred hands stopping you, just write. The only reason why you are an author is because you and only you have the ability to reach the farthest corner of people’s heart, enter into their lives, and become a significant someone there. Write whatever makes you happy, irrespective of the fact what others think. Remember, you were successful the first time a ‘someone’ read the story you wrote. So don’t stop because of a failure, ever. It is your masterpiece, which is yet to be explored by the right people.