Just as I was getting settled into Pakistani, and in particular, Islamabad life of wide streets, walks at night and civilised society it was time to head off for a visit to the behemoth of Karachi.
Some say 14 million people but most say 22 million (same population as Australia) who knows, but Karachi is no country village!
To get to Karachi it took a very easy couple of mini-bus rides to get to the Islamabad airport for 40 rupees (40c – damn those high transport costs!) and the back-to-front way of doing everything at check-in eventually got me on a 737 to Karachi. It would have to be the largest aircraft for the shortest distance I have ever been (carbon karma stuffed) by 2 hours at 700km/h landed me in the world that is Karachi.
Karachi is the biggest, hottest, fastest city in Pakistan and if you believe the people in the north you’ll be lucky to be alive after the first few paces in this land due to the crime, heat, intensity and chaos of this city.
Upon arrival, just like in Lahore and Islamabad, I boarded a used tin can with a motor in it (taxi) and moved just above pedestrian pace to the meeting point with the head of the Rotary PolioPlus program 15km away. My dear older distinguished driver who seemed to be in a beautiful trance of oblivion as trucks and real cars (not tin cans) as they skittled around us, got me to the rendezvous after asking most people on the streets for the place we were looking for. I decided this is not the kind of town where everyone is out to get you if you can ask that many people directions and at least one of them not knife you.
Anyway this blog should not be about transport or just getting to the purpose of this damn blog!
I met with Mr Aziz who seemed a little surprised to see me although I had been organising our meeting for some months now and he quickly made a few calls to see where I would spend the week and what I could do (also worked out months before – I thought). A very prolific man who I know has done A LOT for polio eradication in his country and I was very grateful for his time and efforts to utilise me.
Luckily I was wonderfully palmed off to a kind gentleman who then took me to an equally kind lady at a university who was to be my host for the week. Tahira is a wonderful educator who speaks the Queens English and is just as youthful and excitable as her young adult students. I did the rounds of meeting Vice Deans and slipping in a quick conference call with Brunei and then out to a talk with the Danish Ambassador to Pakistan and to be reunited with Jimmy my previous driver, and also very prolific business man.
The Danish talk was an interesting one of cartoons, Holocaust, business, aid, development, Islam and politics – pretty much covering the gamut of topics possible!
On the way home after a very pleasant dinner of dhal and vege curry I got to see, smell, feel and experience the lifeline of Karachi. This is a place that doesn’t know how to rest and is busy all over. You don’t find the lively places in Karachi they find you! One highlight was seeing the Presidents house, well the outside walls of it, as it was built on one of the former busiest roads in Karachi and I mean literally on the road so now the double lane road (an absolute rarity in Karachi) is a private road from the front and back of el presedente’s house!
The day came close to a close with a wonderful cashew nut ice cream delivered to us in our car on a road, 1950’s style, and capped off a great day of two worlds within one and me thirsty to see and experience more of this very distinct place and way of life.