Author: Sneha Mehta
Publisher: Diamond Books
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Siya Seth has committed suicide. It is then, after death that she decides to 'tell-it-all.' A school girl at 17, she is a victim of parental incest since the age of 8. She tries to do everything that has the propensity to give her some peace and anything to divert her attention. She dates a hunk Randeep much to the irritation of her best friend Reva. She bribes a policeman at Marine Lines after bunking school. She bluffs her always-on-guard mummy. She visits Hasina Syed, a past life therapist, who claims to heal her soul of only Rs 999. But, all in all, does it helps? Or are some things too sleazy to be discussed, when alive?
There is more than one way of interpreting this book but the way i see it, it essentially explores the failure of the main protagonist to cope up with the misfortune she has been subjected to. The action here is dark and gritty and the story initially unfolds in such a manner that it is difficult to keep up with. The disgust over the incest actions looms largely over the book, yet the author keeps the mounting tension layered with a dose of humour. It takes its own sweet time to arrive at the central conflict and could have got away with a few lesser self-indulges, but in the end it portrays a throbbing portrait of incest relationship between the father and her daughter.
Siya Seth is essentially a flawed character. She is brazen and outspoken, blatantly utter cuss words, dismissive of anything 'normal' around her and absolutely arrogant to everyone including her mother. The author employs non-linear narrative to take us through her life, from the first time she is raped to her suicide. In between these two plot points, her failed attempts to find herself are explored where she dates a hunk, gets involved in a bribing incident with the Mumbai Police and attends a quack session of spiritual healing. All these incidents ultimately take her back to the molestation sessions with the father and thus, further explores her inner frustration and dilemma. At these situations, Siya's internal pangs, betrayal of trust innuendos and the existence of an isolated life are well captured.
There are few chapters interspersed in the narrative where the point of view of every other character on Siya is provided. These chapters even though well written stand out like sore thumbs. Almost all of them have clunky transitions with respect to the previous plot points and sudden change of tone in the narrative provides hindrance in maintaining a smooth flow of ideas. I have always been fan of non-linear screenplays. However, it doesn't quite work in this case mainly because the reader does not get an idea about the exact time when particular incidents of rape happens in her life.
I am going with 3/5 for Sneha Mehta's debut novel, Siya Seth Decides to Die. It is a dark, disturbing story told with lot of panache and craft. It has some clunky transitions and does meanders in between with self indulgences but makes up for it with hard-hitting notes. In these days when the market is inundated with books about love, life and all that jazzz (oops!), very few writers in their debut novels take on difficult subjects and explore them well. Do give it a chance, A worthy weekend read.