Pakistani actor, model, and author Mira Sethi’s recently released debut collection of seven short stories, Are You Enjoying?, brings out contemporary life in Pakistan, with themes ranging from adultery to politics, class divide, loneliness, patriarchy, homosexuality, #MeToo, religious identity, and national pride.
A graduate of Wellesley and Oxford, Sethi worked as the Books Editor at The Wall Street Journal before returning to Pakistan. Regularly appearing in mainstream Pakistani drama series on television, Sethi is also a contributor to various publications, such as the New Republic, The Daily Beast, and the New York Times. Daughter of journalists Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, Sethi currently lives between Lahore, Karachi, and San Francisco.
Set in Islamabad, ‘Mini Apple’ is a story about Javed, a divorced actor turned TV journalist, who enters into a relationship with his neighbor, Marianne Almond, an economic officer at the American Embassy. After having dated for a few weeks, however, Marianne leaves suddenly for the US without informing Javed, leaving him heartbroken.
‘Breezy Blessings’, set in Karachi, is a story about Mehak, a 22-year-old struggling actress who lands her first lead role. The story underlines #MeToo and exploitation in the showbiz world. Along the way, Mehak realizes that being a good actor means to “make a pact with yourself that the job came before—and would withstand—the small treacheries detected by the heart.”
‘A Man for His Time’, set within a university campus in Lahore, highlights, among other things, violence in the name of honor.
‘Tomboy’, a modern story set in Karachi, is the story about two childhood best friends who decide to marry—even though the girl in the pair is a lesbian.
‘A Life of Its Own’, a story in two parts, reflects different facets of the country, such as its politics, patriarchal attitudes, and the huge class divide between the rich and the poor.
The title story ‘Are You Enjoying?’, set in Lahore, is about 27-year-old Soni who embarks on an affair with a 47-year-old married man, Asher. While projecting the secret lives of the super-elite in present-day Pakistani society, the story also draws attention to other complex issues, such as addiction.
All in all, the book highlights aspects of Pakistan’s culture that not many people are aware of. Moreover, it sheds light on the fact that though life in urban Pakistan is changing every day, people still routinely struggle with ideas of personal freedom and identity, particularly those belonging to more traditional, conservative backgrounds.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.