The lack of conversation in society about people’s fears, realities, past experiences, and mental health has inspired a Pakistani author to explore the topic in his new book, Damaged.
The 200-page anthology is an honest conversation about how our traumas never really escape us. “The fact that we don’t have conversations about our traumas is what inspired me to write these stories,” said Muhammad Ali Samejo while speaking to SAMAA Digital. “We don’t talk about our fears, truths, and what has scarred our lives.”
He remarked that people who are depressed often seek an escape button and remain guarded about their experiences. They don’t want to talk about what’s depressing them. “You cannot know you are feeling a certain way until you start talking about it.”
With Damaged, Samejo hopes that people are able to confront their fears. “The book has a lot to do with trauma,” he remarked. “Some characters in the book are victims and others terrible, shallow humans who don’t realise how destructive their intentions are.”
About the book
In all the 15 short stories, the author explores the conversational style of prose with discussions between two characters. Samejo believes that this style of prose is what makes the book different.
It features 30 characters that have been given the same amount of time and space to convey their stories. These characters could be your next-door neighbour, a morning show host, or a man you saw sitting in a café, with their own ways of coping with the damage. There are no right solutions, but only the best decisions, the author said.
The harrowing and life-changing conversations between the characters may be fictional but are grounded in reality.
The first story, titled Power, will introduce you to a psychopath who preys upon helpless women and keeps an album of his ‘conquests’. But now he stands face-to-face with the person whose life he ruined, and realises only towards the end of their conversation that he no longer holds the power he once cherished.
Pakistan’s publishing industry
Talking about the publishing industry in Pakistan, Samejo said that as far as fiction is concerned, making a career out of it is difficult, but not impossible.
“Publishers hardly consider new authors even when they have a compelling story,” he said. “Having yourself an audience at hand may lead to publishers to notice your potential.”
He advised aspiring writers to create their Facebook and Instagram pages to share their work and reach as many people as possible.
Samejo is an English-language instructor at Berlitz Pakistan. He was the head of English Prose at Pakistan Bloggers, Writers, Readers and Poets, where he has been sharing stories from his soon to be completed novels The Legends of Karachi and The Darkly Tales.