Backpack check! Equipment – check!
First destination Sukkar. All set, double checked everything and ready to go. We left for the office where I was meeting my companions on the first leg of the journey – Islamabad to Sukkar. It started to rain, absolutley pour down, which I like to think of as a good sign – cleansed and fresh!
We were dropped off outside the entrance of the airport and I was already bubbling with excitement and feeling like an epic explorer off to make new discoveries. Although this was nothing of the sort! With a brand new NorthFace backpack in tow, who could blame me?
The flight to Sukkar would have been quite uneventful had it not been for the chap sitting next to me. His first response to seeing me (in the window seat) to the air steward was “ladies beyte howe hain” (there’s a lady sitting there). So the lovely lady steward asked me if I’d like to move. Rushing through my mind as I was overhearing their conversation was “heck no I’m not moving!” I didn’t change seats. Poor chap just had to sit next to me, whilst I read for the entire flight. He then went on to ask me if I was going to Sukkar to take an exam! Thankfully we landed shortly after. Finally I was in Sindh from where we would travel by road and cross over in to Baluchistan, Pakistan’s most isolated province.
We were staying over night at a guest house, which I must say was really nice (no hot water) but no mosquitos either. The team had a late lunch together of two local delicacies – chicken karai and daal marsh. By then we were famished.
The following morning we set off for Dera Murad Jamali in a standard Toyota Hi-Ace with curtains drawn. The highlight of the three hour drive was crossing the provincial border into Baluchistan. Along route we saw many trucks overturned and burnt, our driver told us that these were NATO trucks heading out of Afghanistan towards Karachi.
DMJ! Was I really in Baluchistan? Looking around at the hustle bustle in the bazaar and the streets leading up to the hospital [MSF] it could well have been any place that I’m familiar with in Punjab. Same atmosphere, similar faces – just the head gear was different on a few people, not the majority. Oh and the shalwar [trousers][on men] was significantly baggier and more flamboyant.
So… raring to go we wasted no time and headed off to the hospital facility. My translator beside to help with the many languages I would encounter. Punjabi not one of them – which I speak fluently! But I was assured Urdu would prevail. Sanobar my trusted right hand speaks – Baluchi, Sindhi, Urdu, Siraiki and English. Phew!
As expected my presence was met with apprehension. NO was the resounding decision to be photographed. So time to readjust approach.
Farzana Ahmed looked at me from the corner of her eyes careful not to make eye contact, sitting on a hospital bed with her two malnourished girls [ages 3 and 18 months]. I took a deep breath and took in my surroundings and the atmosphere in the ward [IPD/ITFC]. Then realized Farzana had two more children – Waqar and Farhan. Two healthy beautiful children. I asked Farzana if I could photograph them, she said yes. I snapped a few shots and shared the pictures with the family [on the LCD] and also had the pictures printed courtesy of the project coordinator which we then gave to them the next day. That was my foot in the door. Success!