Partitions: Travels in Pakistan – Introduction

Within a few weeks of my becoming engaged to my current wife on a remote beach somewhere in India, we were on a plane to Karachi to attend a wedding. Arriving at the airport in Karachi is like a scene out of bizarro network drama based on the TSA. The airport seemed deserted at first. We breezed through immigration and customs, amazed at the lack of attention I drew as an American entering the country on a flight from New Delhi with a journalist’s visa from India. As we stepped out the doors of Jinnah airport and into the daylight of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the first time, we were greeted with a familiar sight that hit me over the head like a steel mallet of clarity: The Golden Arches.

Just beyond the lines of taxis and small parking lot, I saw one of the most iconic beacons of our culture, beckoning me to try a McAloo, whatever that might be. I wondered if anyone in Pakistan had seen Super Size Me.

But the sight of Ronald McDonald in the same country that Osama Bin Laden purportedly uses as his hideout would be the first of the many juxtapositions I would encounter in Pakistan that would both perplex and enlighten me. Over the next few weeks we would smoke with tribal chiefs, smoke some more with an underground journalists, attend a wedding, avoid a funeral  and seek refuge in a Pizza Hut.
But this is all a bit early in the story to be starting with the foreshadowing already, we’re still standing in front of the airport, for Christ’s (Mohammed’s?) sake.

At that moment and for the next month, we would no longer be another pair of western backpackers traipsing around Asia. We were Americans in Pakistan on invitation and our driver was waiting. His name was Rasheed. We shook his hand, let him take our bags and climbed in the back to head into the city…

Next: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times.