Saaya takes place in a milieu not very familiar to Malayali readers. Author Femina Jabbar introduces us to the life and writings of Farsana, an upper middle class expatriate living with her husband and young daughter, through diary entries from January 1, 2008, to April 11 the same year.
Soaked in a woman’s conflicts and desires, Saaya offers some rare insights into the daily realities of a group of men and women in an alien setting. Often bordering on the bizarre, their seemingly luxurious lives are replete with dilemmas that tug at our heart strings. The story courses through emails, chats, and memories of Farsana. A writer who bloomed late in life, she knows she has to be constantly at it to claim a niche for herself in the literary world, however small.
Then she has to deal with many skeletons tumbling out of the closet, including the hell of a childhood riddled with her mother’s self-centred eccentricity. Being married to a businessman, who has recently found his footing and, hence, busy, doesn’t help. Her brother, once a true partner and well-wisher, is entangled in an affair with a married woman, much to her displeasure. But learning about the dark shadows engulfing the life of Safiya, her brother’s lover, Farsana’s heart goes out to her.
Totally uninhibited about living life on her own terms, Farsana gets in and out of relationships, careful about inflicting no more scars on the self than she can handle. But like Saaya, the protagonist of her own unfinished novel, she too is being choked by a million enigmas.
While the author makes many a bold statement in Saaya, she, at times, forgets to keep the flow intact. She succeeds in sketching the innermost feelings of Farsana in a lucid manner, yet sometimes the plot gets mired in unnecessary philosophising, winding its way to a predictable end.
In the preface, Femina Jabbar says her novel is an ode to the many expatriate women whose worlds were shut out to the outside; their unbelievable stories nobody felt like telling yet. Saaya is indeed a significant step in that direction.