‘The Incubation Chamber’ by Vandana Kumari Jena is an anthology of 24 short stories that span various aspects of human relationships.
Vandana Kumari Jena is an IAS Officer of the 1979 batch Orissa Cadre. Her short stories have been published in over 15 anthologies. Much like her short stories, her first novel ‘The Dance of Death’ too explored the trauma and travails of a young woman dealing with myriad emotions and tragedies of life.
Set in the contemporary era, the collection of stories in ‘The Incubation Chamber’ is a testimony that emotions and sensitivity continue to occupy a significant place in our society. Each character in the stories is etched out from life, those that thrive among us. Each story is an experience someone somewhere has lived through. From surrogacy to female feticide, blood relations vs. emotional ties, critical dilemmas to decisive actions, the stories are an amalgamation of life in all its dark and light shades.
The cover story, ‘The Incubation Chamber’ treads the delicate ropes of surrogacy. ‘Blood Ties’ explores the turmoil of a woman who embarks on a mission to find her blood-child. ‘Of Dreams & Desires’ breaks the social chains that bind women to morality and chastity. ‘The Testimony’ is a poignant saga of a woman who discovers her son as a rapist and her decisive stand thereafter. The heartbreaking travails of Indian students trying to adapt to a western life in a foreign land is an eye opener in ‘Birds Fly’. That a parent can be vulnerable in times of calamity and trial is a bitter yet shocking revelation in ‘The Aftermath of Tsunami’. Furthermore, AIDS & Autism, infidelity & domestic violence, insecurities & mindful living, all the victories and tragedies of human life are beautifully captured by the author.
If the stories are helmed from the author’s real life experiences, then it can be said that the writer is a keen observer of human behavior and has an emotional outlook towards life. If the stories are simply a work of fiction woven out of profound imagination, then the depth of the author’s thoughts can be determined by the way women of varying social strata are portrayed in all their strengths and weaknesses.
With ‘The Incubation Chamber’, Jena has revolutionized the art of short story writing. In our contemporary world of emotional abyss, this collection plays with the readers’ psyche and promises to awaken and enlighten. A must read for short story lovers.