Power grid by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In The New Yorker:

In Pakistan, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, I remember seeing high-tension electric pylons that had affixed to them a shield similar to something Captain America might carry, with two muscular arms across the middle, sleeves rolled up, shaking hands against a Stars-and-Stripes background—one arm American, the other presumably Pakistani, although both had pale skin—as if signalling not friendship but a more self-congratulatory mood. These pylons and the accompanying power grid were American gifts, built by American engineers, proof of the two countries’ solidarity. The son of an American mother and a Pakistani father, I found these emblems of the two countries’ amity warming, reassuring.

Pakistan basked in America’s favor. American cars muscled through bazaars tangled with bullock carts and tongas, and American largesse gave us power, one of the largest earth-filled hydroelectric dams in the world, and also F-104 fighters that, we hoped, would prevent the Indians from eating us alive. The earnest Americans who roamed the country doing U.S.A.I.D.’s good works had a benign, roly-poly appearance, as if they lived on jam and honey. The long-haired bachelor Mr. X, from the American Midwest, who taught at the Lahore American School, where I studied, kept an open bar in his living room, stocked with whiskey and Playboy magazines, and offered hospitality to Pakistani Army officers and bon-vivant politicians and the sleeker expats, who late at night poured out their sorrows and secrets to him. His bedroom had a huge Playmate poster that covered an entire wall—Laocoön limbs and golden pelt—a vision imprinted on my tender mind at the age of eleven, consonant with the impression I then had of America as the source of all things good, and more than good. Years later, people said that boozy, hale Mr. X had been C.I.A. More:

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