Ode To Karachi

Discussion in 'Members Club' started by Neo, Jan 13, 2009.

Share This Page

  1. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Sumera S Naqvi

    [​IMG]

    It was an ordeal getting writer Maniza Naqvi to write about her memories of Karachi, but it was worth it. She shuttles back and forth to Pakistan and remains logged with work at the World Bank, while also filling the insatiable desire to write. She is author of three English novels, Mass transit, Stay with me, and A matter of detail, and has many short stories to her credit.
    Here is a nostalgic piece by her about city that she claims introduced her to the feeling of independence...

    Memories are…

    ‘A city's past — or even its present is different for every —one who lives there or has lived there at some point. Millions of us, cramped in close proximity, live parallel lives — crisscross with each other daily perhaps, without ever meeting. We are all each other’s possibilities of pasts, presents and futures. We are all each other's shared stories. The same events may affect us differently.

    An event of importance for one or many may go unnoticed by others. The same events may be seen differently, experienced and absorbed differently depending where we are in the city, socially, economically, geographically, emotionally, demographically. Name your ‘-ally’. That's what makes cities great. That's what makes for great cities. My experience of Karachi, I find remains to me uniquely mine. Karachi is my city.’
    Nostalgia from a far off land…

    ‘Nostalgia and memory seem to have become terms of the past in this world where you can Google just about anything and Skype 'home' using a webcam — where-ever and whatever home might mean to you any time for hours on end. In this age of Skype, video cams, Google, Western Union and pinhead sized digital cameras in our cell phones one never leaves — one can never leave even if one wants to! Long after one leaves physically, one is forwarded, rewound, played over and over again.’

    On coming to Karachi in 1990 for work…

    ‘I came back to Pakistan to live and work in Karachi. And that choice of being in Karachi was driven by the job I got, just like it is for millions of Karachiites. But it was perhaps also because Karachi had always been for me a place of freedom and mobility — a place where people could be themselves or reinvent themselves.

    ‘A place of fun, because as a teenager I visited it from elsewhere in Pakistan in the summer holidays unfettered by parental discipline and doted on by relatives who seemed to want nothing better then to show me a good time. Karachi always seemed a do-able — live and let live place — it had always been an adventure for me, a teenage place, of teenage love, of fast cars whose interiors thumped to the sound of a perfect stereo system playing Super Tramp's Don't leave me now, while we accelerated down Karachi's wide shiny streets way past midnight or to Breakfast in America on drives to the beach — or headed for dood ka sherbet on Burns Road.’

    On a sense of independence lent by Karachi…

    ‘Those cars and my own much later in Karachi was my most beloved place to be in my portable mobile café - my office, my closet, my sanctuary. Can the cool air-conditioned interior of a reconditioned car be considered a place in Karachi? For me the answer is yes. And much later my own car — its stereo fitted near my foot near the accelerator to prevent another car break in — was the place where I lived most when I was working in Karachi.

    Me, my car, the music I listened to and all my stuff, my camera, my notebooks-my sketch books, shoes — stuff — we travelled from one end of the city to other searching for history, details and beauty. Oh and the places I would go — in search of beauty. Old godowns in Mitahdar and Jodia bazaar — the rooftop of a spindly four-story house in Orangi-from where a fragile looking, yet unbelievably strong architect and urban planner implemented breathtaking change for Orangi guided by the legendary Dr. Akhtar Hamid and the urban legend Arif Hasan.

    ‘Another place much loved by me was the place where I whiled away endless hours into the night sitting outside on a mosaic tiled terrace at my aunt, Amiam's house, shooting the breeze so to speak- and then heading out at early dawn for puri and halwa in Kharadar or Soldier Bazaar. In terms of details — it's the mosaic tile floor that obsesses me — and it is the detail through which I access Karachi — it graces my first novel, Mass transit and my more recent novel, A matter of detail. The mosaic tiled floor at my aunt's house in New Town, one of those old ramshackle evacuee properties, is the place that I return to in my mind's eye to connect with Karachi. It symbolises for me everything about Karachi — take the place as a whole, its rundown — its ugly — take it in details and it's breathtaking.

    ‘As a teenager visiting Karachi during summer holidays, I experienced the city at the best of times, welcomed and loved by relatives and by friends who were more than relatives. It was during these visits that I tagged along with a cousin to Karachi University, to the national student federation rallies — where slogans of Asia is red — were de rigeur — and promptly developed crushes on all the student leaders shouting fiery speeches from the makeshift stages of university boundary walls, balconies and roof tops.

    At that time I thought Karachi University was the most excellent place to be — an ideal — that was a very long time ago — obviously. Coming from ‘up country’ or ‘up North’ as Karachiites are still prone to calling the rest of the country — the city life and lights of Karachi were dazzling for me — I was amazed by the neon lights that we went out to see at night on 'drives' when we went out to get paan and soft drinks — or coffee — or Polka choc bars — remember them? For me Karachi was all about feeling welcomed by relatives and friends and about fast cars — with heart shaking music blaring inside — long drives to no where in particular.’

    On living in Karachi…

    ‘As a new resident of Karachi I explored it on my own — my vantage points were special for me — a large roundabout in New Town on the edge of the Quaid's mausoleum — a roundabout edged by palm trees — a favourite place for me to sit on a bench with a cousin late in the evening — anonymously, watching the world whirl about us in every possible mode of transportation — bicycles, motorbikes, cars, donkey carts, buses.

    ‘My routine apart from spending a lot of time with my best buddies, was of going to work during the week and on weekends getting very inspired driving everywhere around the city on my own —exploring every nook and corner; from browsing around in Ali Imam's Indus Art Gallery to sitting for hours on the boundary wall of the large dusty ground on the outskirts of Khudadad colony, watching kids play cricket on Fridays; or making a hobby of taking photographs of beautiful old buildings in the Saddar area and in Amil colony and so on; or attending political rallies in Lyari or PIB colony — or at the Quaid's mausoleum, just to feel the thrill of people thrilling to the sound of hope — reading eveningers; attending group meetings of Shehri —with the other nine members; writing stuff, parts of Mass transit, hidden away and from my vantage point on the rooftop of the dilapidated and lovely Hindu Gymkhana, having climbed over the rusting gate, my car parked at the gate. Not a care about security. Odd.’

    On security problems

    ‘Those were not secure times. And I used to get so excited by the sub contracting home based garment industry thriving all over Liaquatabad and SITE and Orangi, which I visited regularly for work. Some time a fourteen year old cousin of mine accompanied me on my adventures — as protection. He was a kid and I was 26! But those adventures, those drives and all the Bombay filmi songs we sang on top of our lungs in my car — are our deep and solid unbreakable bond. To this day he will call me and ask if I'm up for a drive and then we'll go aimlessly all over the city — filmi songs playing, us singing — heading to all sorts of interesting destinations all over New York.

    On cherished memories

    ‘My memories of Karachi, perhaps the ones about the old haunts are all second-hand — from my parents and their friends and of course friends of my own. It's hard to say what constitutes your own memory of a place or a time — once you've read a novel — or listened to the stories that people have to tell of their lives — they become your own. So you see — I can still see the Gojra refugee camp and smell the tired bodies; feel the dust on my skin — I can still see the hustle and bustle in Saddar's cafes — I can hear the clanging of the tram bells — and blush at the sight of the sensuous, lithe, shimmering, swaying naked body of the belly dancer or stripper in a Karachi night club — and I was never even there — never.

    ‘But I was there for a great game of street cricket; or the fantastic Moharram pageantry — the freedom of my first real job — my own car — discovering every nook and corner of the city — its politics all of it but that was a very long time ago when I was unafraid and very foolish. But the long drives, the sea breeze — the walks on the beach — the conversations all night long; the belief in ideals — the carefree days of total freedom and fun-all that I find — when I arrive, often enough, its not the same anymore.

    On whether Karachi is the same as when she left it

    ‘Of course it isn't. The flyovers, the expressways, bypasses and underpasses take me away from negotiating a city that I am unable and unwilling to walk in — that is not conducive to walking in. But even these new developments — I'm getting used to them, even if Karachi has been changed forever by them — turned into the same old, same old by them.

    On what keeps bringing her back

    ‘Karachi itself is forever young — still growing and growing — developing — always youthful — and therefore always brash and hopeful. I think that's what keeps me coming back. And maybe that's why on my most recent sojourn in Karachi — I said to a friend — perhaps it was the light — or the evening sea breeze — or the music we were listening to, or the memory of a peacock walking languidly across a black and white tiles floor of a quiet temple while just outside its boundary walls there seemed to be nothing but harsh noise and apparent chaos.

    I declared to a friend: I feel that the great love of my life lives right here in a parallel existence to mine in Karachi — I feel love's presence here — And she had laughed and said – you are such a hopeless romantic — grow up — when will you grow up? What? In Karachi? I grinned, Never!’
    • Thanks Thanks x 5
  2. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Shyema Sajjad

    [​IMG]
    Ardeshir Cowasjee​

    He talks about a Karachi I don’t know. A Karachi where no one cared who belonged to which religion or sect, where every one knew who the other was and where life was ‘normal’.

    Ardeshir Cowasjee’s definition of normal is very different from that of what a youth of Karachi would describe today. Where violence and theft is considered normal now, Cowasjee remembers a city where none of this existed. He describes life on Victoria Street, where people would pull out chairs and sit on the footpaths to talk to each other. Surprisingly, no one was interested in discussing politics at that time.

    He vividly describes his neighbours, among whom were Abdullah Haroon, Haji Abdul Sattar and Haji Abu Bakar. None of the neighbours worried about who was a Muslim and who was a Hindu or Parsi.

    Cowasjee remembers Mr. Soparivala from his street who, used to travel in a horse-drawn carriage. Where everyone else sped around on bicycles or got driven in cars, Cowasjee points out how this gentleman from his area moved around the city in a carriage throughout his life.

    Katrak store was the corner shop on his street. On top of the shop lived Mr. Pithawalla, a highly educated man, says Cowasjee. With great admiration, he describes Mr. Pithawalla who was also their school principal. His salary was a meager Rs.400 and he was perfectly content riding a bicycle instead of owning a car. Cowasjee’s descriptions portray a city where modesty and humbleness was common and superficiality barely existed.

    Cowasjee attended Bai Virbaiji Soparivala (BVS) School, as did every other Parsi child in Karachi at that time. BVS was set-up in1859 and operated as a school for the city’s Parsi community. By the time Cowasjee started his schooling, the girls’ section had already been separated and turned into Mama Parsi Girls School.

    Cowasjee’s fond memories also include cricket matches from his school days. He recalls the matches played for the ‘Rubie Shield’, a prize given out by a commissioner called Rubie. Their cricket ground was the piece of land that is now called Jahangir Park.

    ‘Fun days,’ Cowasjee reminisces ‘nobody minded who scored a zero or who scored a 100. It was all for fun.’

    Despite their different preferences and religious affiliations, Cowasjee insists it was a very united community. He blames the deterioration and downfall of Karachi on the Partition. For Cowasjee, that was the time when the ‘charyas’ came.

    Before Partition choosing a mayor for the city was an important and difficult task and it had been decided unanimously that for one year a Muslim mayor would be chosen, followed by a Hindu, a Christian and a Parsi. No one complained about the decision, neither did the populous group impose authority.

    ‘It was a problem choosing the mayor because it was such a responsible job!’ Cowasjee exclaims. Coincidently, Karachi had a Muslim mayor in the year of the partition.

    A city full of law abiding citizens seems very different from what Karachi is now. However, Cowasjee insists that before this city took to the chaos and violence it is has now, there once was a time when it flourished.

    They rode around the city on bicycles, without have any security fears and with great respect for the law. ‘We were scared to take our bicycles without a light at night. We would be fined,’ he recalls.

    Asking him what kept him anchored in Karachi all these years almost seemed like an irrelevant question to ask.

    ‘Why should I leave it?’ He asks defensively.

    And he is right. Why should he have left the city that has been his home all his life? Even though numerous Parsis moved away after 1947, Cowasjee’s family, who were ship-owners, stayed put in Karachi. Hence, Cowasjee spent his childhood here, grew up here and got educated here.

    Around him, the city was changing face and from what he describes, one can only picture a frenzied and violent ***-race. Cowasjee describes how the Muslims were rushing in to make Pakistan their homeland while the Hindus were running away, leaving their homes behind for new settlers to take over.
    Some of the younger members of the Parsi community went away as well. At one time, 3,000 Parsis lived here and now the number had decreased to 2,000. This was mainly because of immigration and birth control, he says.
    Karachi’s biggest problem became the growing number of people and almost no law and order – characteristics that are still prominent today.
    Although the partition brought about a lot of changes for the worse, Cowasjee praises Muhammad Ali Jinnah for the vision he had for Pakistan.
    The first thing Jinnah noticed was the lack of schools and he immediately did a survey on the educational institutions and sent for the Parsis. Cowasjee’s father was included in the group that was requested by Jinnah to open their Parsi schools to the other communities as well.

    ‘This is how his thinking was, he requested, not ordered,’ says Cowasjee when he spoke of Jinnah.

    And so BVS and Mama Parsi Girls School opened their doors to the rest of the communities in Karachi with the condition that no Parsi child would be refused admission while other students would get seats on application basis.
    When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came into power, things changed again, Cowasjee notes with a grim face. Madrassahs were encouraged and existing schools were ignored. People were loosing their lives to the prevailing and increasing violence.

    ‘Before 14th August (1947) no one died like this, it was after it that things became different.’

    Most schools were taken away and turned into government schools and with that, their standards went down. Despite a desperate need for education, no attention was paid to the frail standards of these institutions. Cowasjee still blames Karachi’s current state on the lack of education and awareness.
    ‘Everything boils down to education,’ Cowasjee says as he speaks of hearing the recent tragic stories of mothers selling and abandoning their children due to poverty.

    There is no education and no birth control, he says, adding that strife is the biggest reason why communities are not close-knit anymore.

    It was because of the growing tension and upheaval that Cowasjee started writing letters to the editor at Dawn during Bhutto’s rule. He recounts his encounters with editors too nervous to publish his comments and his struggle to ensure none of his writings were censored.

    It is hard to imagine a man as pleasant yet as dismissive and blunt as Cowasjee watch his beloved city turn into a fearful lawless state. Nevertheless, he smiles and says, ‘So what do I do? Cry?’

    It is equally hard to imagine Cowasjee sit back and watch Karachi’s downfall and do nothing about it. And so he modestly mentions the Cowasjee Foundation, a small family organization, which donates to the needy members of the community. Donations also include scholarships and loans to students struggling to pursue higher education.

    When asked where money should essentially be spent to make a difference in this city, Cowasjee doesn’t give an answer – instead he provides us with a drive around the Clifton area where he is in the process of building two parks: Bagh-e-Rustom and Bagh-e-Mucca.

    Walking through the shrubs, he points out how the park will have no gates and no railings.

    ‘This is not for me, this is for everyone,’ he says squinting in the sun, looking around to see the development of the park. He smiles at the sight of a man lazing underneath a tree.

    He points out the Jahangir Kothari Park, another landmark of Karachi and stresses on how important it is to have land for parks and recreation instead of constructing high-rise buildings everywhere.

    ‘My life has been a waste?’ he muses strolling. ‘What is my achievement?’
    If, his charity work, parks donated to the city, decades of blunt and honest writings have not been an achievement enough, his presence surely has. He throws his head back and laughs when he realizes I have only lived a quarter of the life he has. But with people like him around, Karachi’s youth still has a chance to know what their city once was and perhaps make an effort to the bring the glory back.

    Being a man who doesn’t believe in sugar-coating his views, Cowasjee doesn’t foresee Karachi flourishing the way it once had. But his vivid offer a reassurance that this city has, once, had seen better days.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2009
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  3. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Nasreen Abdulla

    [​IMG]

    Today even passing through Saddar, let alone stopping there, is a nightmare. It takes as long as 10 minutes just to drive by the short strip of what is called the Electronics Market on Victoria Road. So the most viable way of going to Saddar, if you must, is by a rickshaw or a taxi because besides the traffic congestion, it is also next to impossible to find parking space there.

    I can still remember the time when it was such a pleasure going to Saddar and one anxiously looked forward to the trip. We would usually take a bus, which was never too crowded, to get there and it was a treat to walk on Victoria Road (now Abdulla Haroon Road) and Elphinstone Street (now Zebunnisa Street) going from shop to shop.

    For clothes and household goods, there was no place like Bohri Bazaar. And, of course, a trip to Bohri Bazar came with the added pleasure of the famous chaat from the stall in one corner which was a must have. Ladies from different economic background congregated there during or after the shopping to have a plate of mouth-watering chaat and choley. Not too far off and next to the Parsi Fire Temple was the bhelpuri joint. I believe it is still there but there is much rush on what was once Somerset Street (will someone tell me its new name?) that now one can't think of going there.

    Nimco, which opened in the '70s, continues to attract the same kind of rush. It is right in the heart of the Bohri Bazaar and is still approachable on foot. Incidentally, the brand name has become a generic name for these delightful snacks that Karachi has become so popular for and many more shops with the same name, selling similar products, have opened up in various parts of the city.

    Being an avid reader I loved going to Saddar also because of the many bookshops there. There was a small outlet opposite the Capitol Cinema. It was called Liberty Book Stall. Hussain Bhai, the owner made it big; it's now called Liberty Books (Private) Limited and has several outlets in the city including malls and 5-star hotels. It is among the top three importers of books in the country.

    Then there was Paramount Bookshop, owned by one Saleh Bhai. His son Iqbal has greatly expanded the business too. But the largest bookshop in Saddar, Pak-American has closed down. One of the sons of the original owner is running a bookshop in Bahadurabad and another in Defence Housing Authority.

    Among the shops whose closure one laments was Kitab Mahal, which had a fine collection of Urdu books. Agha Sahib, the owner, believed in giving generous discounts to all booklovers, more so if they happened to be students. This was also a practice with Nazeer Sahib, who ran Thomas & Thomas, the store with the finest collection of books on English literature. Sadly, the congestion in Saddar keeps many bibliophiles away, but some loyal customers do get the price lists and information about new books from Nazeer Sahib's son.
    Greenwich, which specialised in watches and books, was another paradise for booklovers, but Mr Namazi, the owner, closed shop way back in the '80s. There were two small shops near the Fire Temple, facing each other: Variety Book Stall and Tit Bit Book Stall, but they only attracted the non-serious reader since they specialised in pulp fiction and magazines with popular appeal.

    Every Sunday my family made a trip to the Empress Market for grocery shopping, come rain or shine. You still can get a wide variety of things there but if you have a car you will think not twice but thrice about going there. BD Sethna's popular store is still there. It's the oldest and the products that the founder's grandson offers are known for their high quality. But as newer localities, with their own commercial areas, sprouted in Karachi, people started shopping for their groceries in outlets closer to home, even if the prices are a shade higher than in Empress Market. There are, however, a few exceptions.

    One lady, a distant relative, is still obsessed with shopping at Empress Market. She ends up spending more on rickshaw fare than the money that she saves by doing her weekly shopping in the iconic market. But one can't disagree with her when she says that the quality of non-packaged food items available in Empress Market is certainly better than anywhere else.

    I am not a lover of street food but to those who are, Saddar offers different fare and at amazingly economical rates. I love Chinese food and cannot help recalling the four Chinese restaurants, which attracted those who loved the cuisine of our favourite neighbour. Sadly, they have all closed down now. But the food, though delicious, has never been very authentic. Once my husband took a Chinese guest from Shanghai to ABC Restaurant, the last Chinese eatery in Saddar, and much to his surprise, his guest didn't relish the specialities. 'It's more Pakistani than Chinese,' the guest claimed.

    He would have been much more disappointed had he sampled the Chicken Corn Soup that is served by many Pathans from their pushcarts near Empress Market. Pre-1971, a Bengali in the same profession was arrested by the police for serving crows' meat instead of chicken in the soup. He was released shortly before the 1971 civil war, in what was then East Pakistan. Someone who went to Dhaka in Bangladesh in the late-'70s spotted the man. Guess what he was doing there? He was selling chicken corn soup. Was it chicken or crow meat, no one knows.

    Many of Saddar's famous landmarks are sadly no longer there. A few old buildings were pulled down over time even though most of them were in good shape to be replaced by characterless, cramped structures. There is no building that I miss more than the beautiful Bliss & Company, which had a gramophone records shop, imaginatively named Hayden. I bought my first record player for what was a princely sum of Rs 250. It ran on batteries, which didn't last long. Replacing them was an expensive affair.

    The pulling down of the Bliss & Company building was a belated wakeup call and the Heritage Foundation swung into action. Now it's not easy to demolish old buildings, especially those that appear on the painstakingly compiled list of the Foundation; after all, they stand evidence of the glorious days of Saddar and its proud history.
  4. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Rumana Husain

    [​IMG]

    Born and bred in Karachi, I have seen it grow from a small city into a chaotic metropolis that has swollen out of all proportions. However, despite the city's multifarious problems, including its failures in areas of planning, adherence to building bye-laws, with incomplete projects dotting the skyline and a total disregard for landscaping, there are a number of grand, public-use buildings that were built in the colonial era and are, to this day, an important and attractive feature of the city.

    In those days Karachi had gravel-paved streets with a proper drainage system, and trams and horse-drawn trolleys transported people through clean streets.

    My memories of the Khaliqdina Hall and Library go back to my childhood days when the charismatic religious scholar Allama Rasheed Turabi would address Majalis there during the ten days of Moharram. My sister and I would sit in the (segregated) area for women on an adjacent plot. The Hall's ionic portico, set over a high podium and topped by a triangular pediment displaying the name and date of construction of the building, seemed an appropriate venue for the mesmerist sermons.

    The Khaliqdina Hall was the first public building built by local Muslim philanthropists for the literary and leisurely pursuits of the 'native' population. We must recall that 'white' and 'black' quarters divided the city into distinct parts during the Colonial period. The 'natives' lived in the Old Town — the north-western part: Serai Road, Napier Road and Bunder Road, while the 'goras' lived in the southeast: the Civil Lines Quarter, Frere Hall, Sindh Club and Governor House. In addition, Saddar was used by the European population for shopping and recreation.
    Khaliqdina Hall was built in 1906 at a cost of Rs33,000, including a generous donation of Rs18,000 made by Ghulam Hussain Khaliqdina. This donation thus immortalised his name on the building's pediment. The rest of the funding was provided by the Karachi Municipal Corporation. The main hall is 95 ft in length and 45 ft wide, and is capable of seating approximately 600 persons. A 10 ft wide veranda runs around the sides of the hall.

    The place assumed historical importance when it was chosen as the venue for the trial of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, leader of the Khilafat Movement.

    From July 8 to 10, 1921, the Khilafat Conference, held in Karachi, passed a resolution declaring it unlawful for Muslims to serve in the British army ‘or help or acquiesce in their recruitment’ and stated that if the British Government, directly or indirectly, openly or secretly, fought the Angora Government (the Turkish National Government), the Muslims of India would start a civil disobedience movement.

    Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali, famously known as the Jauhar brothers, made fiery speeches which led to their arrest. They were charged with incitement against the British Government. The trial of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, in which he defended himself, became known as the ‘'Trial of sedition’. This building consequently became a symbol of the Muslim struggle during the Khilafat Movement and the movement for independence.

    The building, like several other historical buildings in Karachi, was totally neglected for years — becoming a victim of time and termites, ennui and apathy. Fortunately, in 2002 it was restored by the defunct Karachi Metropolitan Corporation at a cost of Rs15 million. It is now protected by the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act.

    On the same road, i.e. Bunder Road, (now M A Jinnah Road), which is today one of the busiest arteries of the city, is located one of the finest examples of Colonial-era architecture — The Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) Building — a landmark building of the city.

    This imposing building makes use of Jodhpur red sandstone and yellow Gizri sandstone. While an abundant supply of Gizri stone was quarried from the nearby Gizri hills, red sandstone was brought from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The hue of the stone had attracted many British architects of those times. Jaipur became known as the 'Pink city' of India due to the several buildings constructed there in the Anglo-Moghul style with the Jodhpur red sandstone.
    The architecture of the KMC Building is also Anglo-Moghul, and its architect was James SC Wynnes. He used the Jodhpur stone on the front and sides but, in order to reduce costs, Gizri stone was used in the rest of the building.
    The foundation stone of the building was laid on another site in 1895.

    Construction, however, was started on the present site later, and completed in 1930, followed by the building's inauguration in 1932. The building is three stories high of which the central part is the magnificent clock tower, with its Moorish dome. The clock tower was made especially to commemorate the visit of King George V to India.

    Living in the old part of the city until I was four years old — not too far from this building — I still recall the KMC clock's chimes that marked the hour. The chimes then remained silent for many years. In the year 2007, however, the City District Government of Karachi celebrated the 75th anniversary of the building and a massive renovation project was carried out which included repair of the clock. It is heart-warming to note that the clock is still working, but ironic that time has such little value for our people.

    The Swaminarayan Temple (Mandir) is situated right opposite the KMC Building, in a large estate or compound with a fine residential plan. It houses hundreds of homes belonging to the Hindu community. Approximately 5,000 people, belonging mostly to the Sindhi, Rajput and Gujarati communities, reside here.

    The Swaminarayan Temple was built during the British Raj in 1849, and celebrated its 150th anniversary somewhat belatedly in April 2004. Apparently, the original images of Shri Swaminarayan were taken to India during the tumultuous period of the Partition, when the protected compound was also used to provide refuge to Hindu families.

    Architectural design, religious symbolism and imagination jointly play an important role in the distinctive characteristics of the Temple. The Swaminarayan Temple is designed in the North Indian style (this is different from the South Indian style, but the inspiration for both styles come from the shape of a mountain, leading from a broad base to a single point where all lines converge). The tower of the Temple bulges in the middle. This tower is a massive stone structure known as the shikhara with a most attractive, sculptural quality to it.

    Similar to all Hindu temples, the highest point of the superstructure of the Swaminarayan Temple is also located directly above the garbhagriha or the inner sanctum altar. There is a wide passage all around this sanctum with a black-and-white patterned floor, being an array of configurations of squares in arithmetic progression — the mandala.

    The Swaminarayan Jayanti, Ram Navmi, Janam Ashtmi, Dasshera, Diwali and Holi festivals are celebrated within these premises. There is also a Gurdwara of Guru Nanak for the Sikh community right at the foot of the raised Temple. Sikhs and Hindus attend both places of worship and participate in each other's religious celebrations in a friction-free, communal spirit worthy of emulation.

    During Diwali in October this year, sitting on the old stone bench at the edge of the Temple, I recalled my childhood, when we lived not too far from another very imposing building: the D J Science College. This fine institution was built by a Hindu philanthropist, Diwan Dayaram Jethmal. The NED Engineering College and the SM Science and Law Colleges in the vicinity had made the area a hub for educational as well as political activity in the 1960s and early 1970s. However, the DJ Science College building, designed by James Strachan and constructed in the neoclassical, or 'Italian architectural style', stands head and shoulders above the others.

    The College was opened on 17th January, 1887 by His Excellency Lord Reay, the Governor of Bombay in a bungalow in Thatai Compound, situated on M A Jinnah Road. It was later shifted to the present building in 1892. The College was by then a full-fledged institution with faculties of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Law.

    Elegant domes and arcades, with the main façade 431 ft in length and a 5 ft high plinth, gives unmatched grace and grandeur to this educational institution. The floors were laid with mosaic tiles imported from Belgium. The eight-ft wide main staircase was fitted with ornamental cast-iron work from McFarlane & Company of Glasgow. The tiles are hard to be found, but the staircase is still there in its original materials.

    The original cost of construction is reported to have been Rs186,514 out of which the Government contributed Rs97,193, the balance being raised through public donations.

    ‘The tangible and intangible cultural assets and heritage of the city have to be protected. Doing this establishes social and political continuity and gives the people of the city an identity and a pride in its history. It also helps in bridging ethnic and class differences which is a priority since most Third World cities are now multi-cultural,’ writes architect Arif Hasan in Karachi's development and the principles of urban planning, published in Habitat International Coalition, October 2006), an astute comment on the importance of heritage.

    Karachi had prospered during the Raj as a major centre of commerce and industry, attracting several different communities such as Africans, Arabs, Jews, Zoroastrians and Catholics from Goa, to name a few.

    A large number of British businessmen and Colonial administrators were also living here. However, with the influx of migrants in 1947 and later, the ever-increasing numbers, bad planning, lack of proper infrastructure and greed for land, not to mention utter indifference, the city that once had potential and promise has grown, but not lived up to the changing times and challenges. Dotted with the stately architecture of the past it has, nevertheless, failed to take pride or ownership of its rich history.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  5. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Irfan Husain

    [​IMG]
    Lighthouse Manora​

    When I look at children growing up now in Karachi I feel a pang of pity for them. Given the high crime rate and the chaotic traffic, their parents make sure they don’t leave their homes unsupervised. This is very different from how I remember growing up: in those days, the only parental guideline was to finish our homework, and return home when it got dark.

    Needless to say, neither stricture was closely observed. We would roam the neighbourhood (and beyond), getting into fights, organising our own games and generally raising hell. Unless somebody complained, our parents did not ask any questions about what we had been up to.

    My earliest memories are of Napier Barracks, a military housing area, where our family was housed when we arrived from India at Partition. I was three, and at that age, the spaces between the single-story structures seemed huge. Whenever I passed by the area as an adult before the barracks — located behind today’s Crown Plaza Hotel — were demolished, I was amazed at how the distance had shrunk with the passing of years.

    Looking back, I am still surprised at how much freedom my brothers and I, together with our friends, enjoyed. We were free, for instance, to walk to Elphinstone Street to spend our pocket money on books or the movies. Once, when I was around 15, my cousin Babar and I bicycled to Dumlotee, about 25 miles away, where my uncles had a construction site for their company, Omar Sons Ltd, which was then laying a large water supply pipeline from River Indus to Karachi. We spent many weekends there, going off on hunting trips with Anees Mamoo, who would also turn up to play cricket with us on Sundays.

    School was not as competitive as it is now. All that was required of us was to pass our exams and stay out of serious trouble. I remember Father Tony and his habit of caning us hard for any infringement of the rules. Lesser crimes would be punished by class teachers by making us kneel for the whole period. When you are wearing shorts, this can be quite painful.
    During the break, a number of stalls sold delectable treats: there was the choorunwalla who dispensed small paper twists full of mouth-numbing powder; for an extra two paisas, he would ignite the contents with a chemical, making it flare. God knows what ingredients went into the mix, but we loved it. Then there was the faloodawalla who would mix brightly-hued concoctions in a glass full of shaved ice. If you had a little more money, you could go to the school canteen where samosas, patties and colas were on sale.

    Often, I would walk home with friends through Saddar. Here, Goan ladies clustered in their skirts, and familiar shops tempted us with their wares. There was no suggestion that kids my age might be at risk walking around on our own. Safer, more innocent times…

    As there was no TV and no computer games, we had to make up our own entertainment. Of course, there was cricket. But we also played gulli-danda, marbles and tops. Along the ways, we made up games that, looking back, would certainly be off-limits to my son when he was the same age. For instance, we would divide up among two groups, and get on bikes with the intention of knocking our opponents off their saddles. For some reason, this rough sport was called ‘Migs’, and we all ended up with bruises and scratches. The only rule was that nobody could complain to our parents.
    After it got too dark to play outside, we turned to reading or to indoor games. We would use our meagre pocket money to buy books and comics, although our mother had banned the latter. So these comics had to be hidden under a tile on the roof. This meant that to read or trade our prized collection, we would have to scramble up a bair tree.

    Once, I remember that I ‘ran away’ from home over some real or imagined issue, thinking that there would be panic among the family once somebody discovered my farewell letter. In order to better watch the reaction, I was perched up on the roof, reading our hidden comics. Hours passed, and there was no sign of the cops or any visible commotion. Having re-read the comics, bored and hungry, I climbed down to discover that nobody had read the letter. Sheepishly, I tore it up and did not mention the incident to anybody.
    Movies were the big thing in our lives. Rex, Rio, Palace and several other theatres loomed large on our cityscape. Once we had scraped together enough money for a matinee show, we would spend hours arguing which film offered the best value. Luckily, in those days there was a market for distributors, and the latest movies would come to Pakistan very soon after their release. The magic of the big screen is something that has stayed with me my whole life.

    Growing up outside constant parental supervision gave us a degree of independence that has come in handy over the years. Children forced to spend much of their time at home are all too often fearful and unsure of themselves. Watching television and playing video games does not prepare them adequately for the rough and tumble of life. As kids, we were fortunate to live in a tolerant city that posed little threat to callow youngsters.

    One area near Napier Barracks I remember well is the Christian cemetery known as Gora Khabaristan. As I recall, the graves were well tended, and the whole place had an air of serenity and peace. Recently, a reader emailed me photographs of the graveyard as it is today. Children from a nearby basti were seated on the graves, many of which were in ruins. The boundary wall had collapsed, and a certain amount of encroachment had taken place. From the images, the whole place reeked of decay and neglect. In a sense, Gora Khabaristan is symbolic of what has happened to the city I loved and grew up in.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  6. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Zia ul Islam Zuberi

    [​IMG]
    Merewether Tower, 1958. ​

    He was six-foot-tall and bulky and had a voice that could go for miles. His name was Azeem Khan Pathan and he was a contractor living in a lane right next to where we now have the Tae Kawando club on main M A Jinnah road near what is called the Purani Numaish. I have no idea from where did this bus stop get the name. As far as I remember there were never any exhibitions (Numaish) held in the area.

    Anyway, this six-foot-tall creature was a red-blooded Pathan, hailing from the NWFP and settled in Karachi. Coming from an Urdu speaking family who had migrated from India in 1947 why do I still remember this guy from as far back as 1950? The reason is that he was a good friend of my father and always arrived with loads of dry fruits from his native area. He would just descend on our house with his big arms full of packages of walnuts, pistachios, almonds, figs and cashew nuts.

    Those were really simple days when not many could afford the luxury of buying dry fruits and his gifts that mostly arrived a little before the winter season were more than welcomed. This is just one example but in those early days of Karachi there were no ethnic tensions and people lived in complete harmony. It was not just ethnic but also religious harmony in those days.
    I wonder how many people today remember the large Christian and Parsi communities that lived side by side with the Muslims in Karachi and enjoyed each others’ festivals and company. Among the famous compounds where Muslim and Christian children played and grew up together was the Supariwala block opposite the CIA centre in Saddar. Famous personalities like Aisha Riasat and her sister Khalida Riasat grew up in that block together with young Christian girls and boys like Shella Mehta and Tony Cutino. Math wizard and famous tutor Domello also lived in the same block. There was never any hint of tension except of course rivalries of the heart where suitors used religion to prove they had better claim to a girl's hand and the rival should stay off their turf.

    Both Muslim and Christian boys used this ploy to decrease competition. Sometimes even duals through fist fights took place between suitors and the fight would be the talk of the town with the girl involved fuming over the undue publicity this contest between her suitors had generated hoping that the news does not reach her parents. In those days both Muslims and Christians were very conservative by modern standards and the wild swinging parties that are a norm now amongst teenagers were practically unheard off in the early days of Karachi.

    Karachi owes a debt of gratitude to the Christian community for putting up some of the finest schools in the city. It was schools like St Joseph, St Patricks, St Paul, St Lawrence and Jufelhurst that set the standards of education in this city in its early days. These were not money making machines but were established with the missionary zeal of imparting education to the children of this city. Muslims and Christians studied and played together and long lasting friendships were established between the two communities. If it was not for these institutions, some of which were ruined by privatisation, Karachi would not have been the centre of excellence it was in those days.

    Karachi boys and girls topped the list of candidates in the civil service examination and Karachi was considered a breeding ground for intellectuals and academics, not terrorists. Even today the surviving schools are doing their bit and maintaining the same standards of education at one third the price charged by commercial educational institutions, run mostly as businesses not with any mission to provide high class education to the children of this city.

    Do you know that Karachi had an elaborate Tram system run by Mohammad Ali Tramway Company that ran right up to Kemari? The entire Saddar area was covered by this system and very well maintained. This area also harboured a very large Christian and Parsi community and during their festivals you would find the whole area glittering with lights, stars and what not. Muslims and Christians would visit each other on their religious holidays and eat cakes, shami kebabs, puddings and chocolates. This was the Pakistan envisioned by the Founder of the nation where all communities will live together in harmony and peace and progress together for the collective advancement of the country.

    The early residential areas of Karachi were Jacob Lines, Jutland Lines, Abyssinia lines, PIB Colony, Jail Road, and Frere Road, Burns Road, Kharadar etc. People from all ethic origins and speaking different languages lived together. In the Jacob Lines ,army barracks were turned into houses to accommodate those migrating from India. These barracks had as many as twelve houses and as little as two or three in a barrack.

    A complete sense of comradeship prevailed between the different households no matter what their ethnic origin. Everyone knew each other and if there was any problem in one household the entire barrack would pitch in to provide a solution. This was the closeness and understanding with which the early settlers of Karachi lived and enjoyed this serene and beautiful city.
    In times when forty people die of gunfire in a week it is hard to imagine that Karachi was once a peaceful city by the sea but it was and those that have seen its early days cannot forget the sights and sounds of early Karachi. An incident in the early-’60s will demonstrate the difference.

    One evening after sunset there was a great hue and cry in Jacob Lines and Para military personnel flooded the entire area. Later it was known that someone had seen a person with a pistol in hand. Imagine just one person with a pistol caused such havoc and concern! Today there is hardly any locality at any time of the day or night when the air is not ringing with gun fire of sub-machine guns and even heavier firearms.

    Young school girls in those days would travel by foot through a maze of hutment surrounding Jacob Lines to their Saddar schools like St Joseph and no one would dare to even pass a remark or look them in the eye. The law was so strict that even small violations by cyclists resulted in immediate punishment and it was unthinkable that vehicles would go the wrong way on a one way street and the policeman would just look the other way. Karachi was a law abiding decent city that could compare with the best in the world.
    PECHS was among the first modern housing societies of the city. Today's bustling Tariq road was just a deserted scratch of road with few shops. The only exciting thing that really ever happened here was the road show by this show off Jehangir who would drive up and down the road screeching his tires. He usually did it in the evening to impress the young ladies standing in the balconies in the few buildings that adorned this road at that time. He might be a show off but he was the centre of admiration of young men who would religiously arrive every evening to watch this dare devil spin his tires.
    It was a big thing in those days to do something daring like that and attract the attention of the law. I know it sounds kind of lame today where it is more fashionable to empty the barrel of a gun in air as you drive around.
    Cinema houses were the rage of Karachi and it had some of the finest in the country. There was Capitol and Paradise in Saddar and than Rio just before the Trinity Church and of course Palace where the 'who is who of Karachi' met during film shows.

    Going to the cinema was a big deal and some of the more memorable films like Gone with the wind, Mutiny on the bounty and Summer place attracted so many viewers that even the high and mighty could be seen in less prestigious rows like the ones priced Rs1.50 and even the infamous nine annas, the cheapest seats in the hall.

    The present phenomena of hotel hopping nearly every evening was unheard of in those days. Hotels were few and it was not considered appropriate to eat in hotels in those days and certainly not with your family. Chinese hotels were very famous but they too were not frequented as much as they are these days. The first really classy hotels were Bistro at Metropole and The Three Aces which was opposite Central Hotel. Prices were extremely reasonable too; once when after a dinner of nearly ten people in The Three Aces, the host paid a little over Rs300, it was the talk of our circle for many days.

    With all its simplicity, Karachi celebrated New Year in style. Metropole hosted the biggest ball and was followed by clubs like Karachi Gymkhana and Sind Club. The Airport hotel was another venue for New Year parties and on New Year's Eve there was a constant stream of traffic between Metropole and Airport as New Year night revealers travelled to and fro between the two locations. How I miss that partying atmosphere as I look at the gloom and doom that is our lot on New Year's Eve these days with armed to the teeth police and rangers facing hooligans bent on rampage.

    Even as far back as the early '80s there were New Year night dinners in all hotels and restaurants and people flocked to them without being harassed by young men riding motorcycles without silencers. The law and order situation in Karachi has robbed us of so many simple joys of life that made living in Karachi such a pleasure.

    Weddings in Karachi were not so elaborate in the early days. Those were times of simplicity before TV dramas had invaded our drawing rooms personifying the virtues of Mehndi and Dholki. Weddings were more of a personal affair and were restricted to the localities of the bride and groom. There would be all kinds of activities going on in these neighbourhoods. Tents would be pitched in the available space in the lanes and by lanes and the big pots on fires of woods and coal would send out the odour of Korma, Pulao and Zarda or Kheer drifting throughout the locality announcing the sumptuous feast awaiting those lucky enough to be invited to the night's festivities. Biryani that has now invaded our life with a vengeance had not been introduced till than and Pulao was the order of the day.

    Guests were well looked after and were seated for dinner with the host family members looking after them. It was only when guests were gone that the family members sat down to enjoy their own meal. Not the impersonal weddings these days where people hardly know each other and are invited to dinner not by the host or any member of his family but by the waiters who draw their attention by banging the pot covers announcing that dinner is served.

    When buffet style dinner was first introduced in Karachi many refused to visit events where this style was adopted as they thought it was uncultured to eat standing up or show eagerness by self service. It took some time for Karachiites to adjust to this kind of arrangement.

    There were hardly any cars in Karachi in the early days and if one pulled up outside your door the neighbours would out of curiosity peep out to see who has arrived in such style.

    In short Karachi was a lazy, sleepy town by the sea where doors closed at sunset and the family after having an early dinner retired to bed to wake up early and go about their business.

    Radio Pakistan provided all the entertainment and the more ambitious tuned in to Binaka Geetmala to hear the latest Indian filmi music.
    Let us just say that the spirit of Pakistan was alive and well in the Karachi of yesteryears, demonstrated in those early days by the spirit of brotherhood amongst all communities and religions. Those that grew up in those days can never forget the Karachi that it once was and regret the fact that they could not preserve it in its pristine glory for their children.
    • Thanks Thanks x 2
  7. Bezerk
    Offline

    Bezerk PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2008
    Messages:
    3,828
    Ratings:
    +2 / 4,197 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Damn Neo, that brings back some memories. If only "Student Biryani" still had the quality it used to have back in the day. I sincerely miss the ice "Golay" and "Cafe payala's" Chaye.

    :/
  8. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Salman Siddiqui

    [​IMG]
    Botal Gali, 2008​

    They say in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, one can identify not only a person’s earning power but also religion by knowing which side of the street he lives on.

    This is exactly what inspired U2, the legendary rock band, to write the song, Where the streets have no name, an all-time classic number from their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, which in Bono’s words talks about a utopian location ‘where the values of the city and the values of our society don’t hold you down’.

    In Karachi too, one can divide different sections of the city according to income groups, for example, the elites and upper-middle class with high incomes can be found packed in Clifton and Defence; middle-class groups in Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Nazimabad; and the lower-middle class in Lyari, Korangi and Orangi. However, there’s no area specific to a religious community such as a Shia, Sunni, Hindu or Christian street, but there are places where particular groups of people with the same ethnicity can be found; for example Sohrab Goth and al-Asif Square are purely Pathan or Afghan refugee areas.
    Before Partition, the name of a gali, the Urdu word for street, became associated with a variety of professions, because of a particular group of traders who opened up shops there. Places like Botal Gali (Bottle Street), Mochi Gali (Cobbler Street) and Sarafa Gali (Jewellery Street) are cases in point. Although Dupatta Gali on Tariq Road and Banaras Colony in Korangi Township came about later, it basically follows the same trend.

    Later, with the influx of refugees in the city after Partition, settlements were formed that came to be known in line with the conditions and/or people of the area who started living there.

    Machar Colony (Mosquito Colony) was named because there were mosquitoes all around the place when people settled there. Bhens Colony (Buffalo Colony), Pehlwan Goth (Village of wrestlers) and Geedar Colony (Vulture Colony) have a similar story.

    Afterwards political considerations came into play and colonies named after famous personalities and rulers started to spring up in the city. Some encroachments also started to name themselves after influential persons in order to seek protection. Musa Colony was named after General Musa. Nusrat Bhutto colony, Junejo Colony, Kausar Niazi colony, Shireen Jinnah Colony and Rais Amrohi Colony are a few other examples.

    Lately, the trend has shifted from purely an issue of settlement to that of real-estate encroachments where land grabbers are out in full force, occupying prime locations and even public parks. One popular tactic is that of setting up a goth, literal meaning village in Sindhi, on the outskirts of the city and settling families there from interior parts of the province. Former chief minister Sindh Arbab Rahim had a tiff with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement only recently when the Karachi-based political party started a campaign to drive out such encroachments.

    Some streets of Karachi have the honour of giving their titles to local films. Filmmaker Sarmad Sehbai’s Fankaar Gali (Artist Street) in 1989 is perhaps the most well-known and critically acclaimed project in this connection, which explored the lives of performing artists who pronged to a lane behind Radio Pakistan in hopes of getting a show. The film had brought instant fame and recognition to actors Akbar Subhani and Hyderabad-born artiste Hafeez Fatima back then.

    Today, no trace of the so-called Fankaar Gali exists. The street behind the old Radio Pakistan building on M A Jinnah Road looks deserted and is surrounded by tire shops and stray dogs. Ahmed Himesh, a librarian at the National Academy of Performing Arts, recalls that Fankaar Gali was set up by a group of like-minded and junior-level artists as a means of survival and finding work. No popular names of today were among the group.

    He informs that most artists of the day had found the act of standing in a street looking for work as ‘undignified’, even though they understood the economic hardships of the performers. Other people when interviewed also agreed that there was nothing special or romantic about the street. The Gali remained functional only for a few months sometime during the ‘80s and later died out.

    Although there are roads in Karachi, such as the Amir Khushro Road, dedicated to artists, there’s no official street or mohalla (neighbourhood) specifically for them. One reason for this could be that the state has never allotted houses or sanctioned plots for artists say like it did for journalists, who have a Sahafi Colony (Journalists’ colony). However, there’s an area near Garden which is known as Qawaal Gali or Qawaal Mohalla, where families of different Qawaal households have lived over the years. Pakistan’s leading sitar player Nafees Ahmad points out to a unique advantage for the children living there, saying they don’t face stigmatisation in a society which traditionally looks down upon performers and their offspring.

    A place called Bul Bul Hazaar Dastaan near Kharadar is also famous for having organised a number of ‘mehfils’ or shows for some leading classical musicians. Some not-so-famous performers still reside there in a building today.

    Shehzad Nawaz’s film Botal Gali (2006) had also used the name of a Karachi street, which is just ahead of Pakistan Chowk. Although the Gali had looked crisp and long in his film, in reality it is just a narrow lane with a deplorable road condition where empty bottles from all over the city are collected and sold. There you also find a variety of ‘non-alcoholic’ perfume shops, mostly owned by Ismaili shopkeepers, alongside dealers of empty green-coloured wine bottles.

    Some months back, efforts were launched for a food street in Karachi’s Burns Road area on the pattern of Lahore, but to date it hasn’t borne any fruit. Also, the provincial government had initiated the Kochae-Saqafat, a weekly activity where booksellers organised fairs and cultural shows were held in the street between the Arts Council and Hindu Gymkhana, but that too was discontinued after a year.

    Many streets must have been renamed or destroyed or built during Karachi’s evolution as Alexander’s Krokala to Mohammad bin Qasim’s Debal to the present day metropolis of over 16 million people. The danger is not only that there aren’t enough books on the subject but also the fact that people in general here don’t seem to care or take interest in knowing more about the city they live in. There’s a dire need to record the history of our streets in finer detail before they too fade away with time.
  9. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0
    I know what you mean...I mis Karachi every single day of my life.
    Thats why I started this thread as an Ode to the greatest city on earth. :pakistan::smitten:
  10. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Saud Ghaus

    [​IMG]

    Whenever we think of old Karachi, we always think of places like Empress Market, Burns Road, and Soldier Bazaar. However, we almost always tend to overlook a major monument of the city’s heritage- the Karachi Zoo.

    Established in the mid-18th century, it is one of the city’s oldest landmarks. It is historically significant too since it is located on part of the land where East India Company factory used to stand.

    In 1861 the Indian government put it under the charge of the city’s municipality department. In 1878 the city’s municipality, after several years of maintaining the zoo on its own, finally placed it under a trust to be maintained out of public subscription.

    The Zoo came to be in its present state however in 1881, with the help of sizeable donations, which paid for its expansion and renovation.

    Initially called Mahatma Gandhi Garden it was renamed after Independence as Karachi Zoological Gardens. Due to the ever growing number of animals, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation finally decided to create the posts of a full-time curator and a qualified veterinary doctor in 1953, to look after the animals housed there. Currently its total sanctioned strength is 242 staff members, which includes six technical staff while the rest are all skilled or semi-skilled workers.

    Located on Nishter Road and Sir Agha Khan III Road in the old Garden area of Karachi, the Karachi zoo covers a total area of 33 acres. It consists of a zoo, several botanical gardens, a natural history museum, a reptile house, an aquarium, a hospital and educational facilities.

    The Zoo’s Natural history Museum is very good, featuring indigenous as well as exotic stuffed animals belonging to different regions of the world. It allows visitors and science students the unique opportunity to study the evolution of various species of animals from close range. It was remodelled by the City District Government, Karachi (former known as the KMC) in 1991-92 and was formally inaugurated by the Japanese Princess in 1992.

    The Natural History Museum is also a popular choice for field trips by students of various schools, whose teachers bring their students here to teach them about biodiversity and evolution. Apart from the stuffed animals, skins, antlers, horns and feathers of various species are also on display in the museum.

    The Reptile house in the Karachi Zoo is one of the best reptile houses in the country and houses 13 species of snakes and lizards and crocodiles, including Cora snakes, Pythons, Sand Boas, *** Snakes and the Cobra. Hatching of tortoises and crocodiles are also exhibited in the Reptile House. The reptile house was expanded and renovated in 1992 as well.

    Apart from the reptile house, the zoo also features an aquarium. Constructed in 1953 this aquarium has 28 display tanks that contain a total of 30 different species of fish which number close to 300 in all. Presently the Karachi zoo houses 165 mammals, 460 birds and 210 reptiles.

    Part of the many botanical gardens at the Karachi zoo, is a small garden in Mughal style which was established in 1970. It features stretches of lush green lawns with seasonal plants which occupy a major part of the garden. Different varieties of roses in many shades and colours can be found here which greatly enhance its aesthetic beauty. The roses surround several Mughal styled, centrally located fountains which lead to a structure straight from the Mughal era. It is the perfect place for a quiet afternoon stroll, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and is one of the finest green spots in the city.

    The Karachi Zoo also features a veterinary hospital. Established in 1998, this veterinary hospital features modern diagnostic facilities such as an operation theatre, X-ray quarantine building, laboratory and an incubation room where eggs abandoned by the zoo’s various captive birds are taken care of. It also arranges regular educational programs, with the collaboration of different educational institutions, in order to create public awareness regarding animals, their importance in society, morphological character, their behaviour, breeding habits, habitat, conservation and feeding processes etc.

    Back in the '80s and early '90s, before there were any malls or coffee shops, the zoo or Gandhi Garden as it was commonly called, was the best place for a day out with the family. The sheer variety of animals there mesmerised children and adults alike. The lions, monkeys, bears, snakes and the elephants always held appeal no matter what age group the visitor belonged to.

    As a child I remember queuing up for ages, waiting patiently in line with dozens of other children, to sit atop the elephant. Though one never got to take a ride on it, just sitting there was worth the wait and no matter how many times you’d done so before, it was always a novelty.

    Apart from the animals the botanical gardens were also a major attraction. They made for the perfect getaway, ideal for a walk along the long stretches of green or for just sitting down with your picnic basket and enjoying the scenery. It was the perfect place to relax after the whole tour of the zoo, to sit down in the cool shade with your sandwich in hand, and just enjoy the beauty of nature around you.

    Every visitor that came from the interior of Sindh, or even from Punjab, wanted to visit the Gandhi Garden even if they had seen it before. And it wasn’t just the children that wanted to see it, but adults as well. They considered it a major point of interest, and no trip to Karachi was ever complete unless it included a visit to the Gandhi Garden as well.

    Lately however, due to lack of funds and mismanagement, several animals have died at the zoo, including a few of the main attractions such as the lions and tigers. The Indian elephant named Anarkali which I remember from my childhood trips there also died on July 19th, 2006, after having been one of the Zoo’s star attractions for nearly six decades.

    One sincerely hopes that those in charge will take notice of the situation and step up to redress these problems. This vital asset of our city’s heritage must be preserved, as it is a part and parcel of Karachi’s culture and is still one of the most popular recreational areas in the city. Such is its appeal that even today, despite facing competition from so many quarters, its popularity shows no sign of waning.
  11. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0

    By Shanaz Ramzi

    [​IMG]
    Bohri Bazar, 1917.​

    Memories of shopping with my mother at Bohri Bazaar for items as varied as clothes, pots and pans, plastic ware, and even school uniforms and satchels are as vivid as if they had happened only yesterday. I remember that much as I would love the trips to Saddar, and especially to Tit Bit Book Stall on Frere Street (now Daudpota Road) over looking Bohri Bazaar, where I would be allowed to pick up as many comics as I fancied, I would dread the trips to Bohri Bazaar, where I would invariably find myself getting pinched by some frustrated youth or the other.

    But, the crowded, narrow lanes aside, there was no better shopping experience than a trip to Bohri Bazaar, as my cousins visiting from Dhaka (then Dacca) would assure me. The quaint shops, practically all owned by the gentle Bohra community (thus the name of the bazaar); the many open air stalls; the coolies carrying our shopping for us, were all an indelible part of this shopping area. We knew exactly which shop to go to for which item — where the best bargains could be had for linen, glassware, and so on.
    As I grew older, and learnt to fend for myself and deal effectively with the constant jostling and pushing that I would have to suffer in the narrow lanes making up the bazaar, I found myself actually enjoying these trips, which invariably ended at the 'chaatwalla'. And no trip would be complete without a stop at our favourite 'amrood walla' who would be planted on the floor with his basket of guavas at the entrance of one of the busiest 'gallis' in the bazaar.

    In fact, it was not just Bohri Bazaar, but the entire Saddar area that used to be our regular haunt. P F Pereira and United Bakery were the stops for the most delightful pastries and chicken patties, and 'Trampatta' — a street where trams used to once run, and which still had the tracks running through it - was a must-visit for the best 'bhel puri' in town. Saris could only be bought at Mehboob Market, while Moosajee and Sanaulla were the most distinguished shops to frequent for sartorial and ladies wear, respectively.
    Sadly though, over the years, Saddar began to lose its charm for many of us living in residential areas far from the heart of the city. The prime reason for this was the slow but steady development of an alternate, more modern shopping area in the vicinity of the relatively posh residential area of PECHS. As Tariq Road began to sprout shops of all kinds, people found it easier to shop there, in the comfort of broad roads, allowing for easy parking and carefree walking. Saddar, for most, was reduced to an occasional stop, when something needed to be bought that Tariq Road couldn't cater — like 'degchis', for instance — or a particular shop (read jeweller) had to be visited that could only be found there.

    Among the shops that Tariq Road particularly became popular for were footwear, its main artery soon becoming dotted with a mind-boggling variety of shoe shops. For many years there was no competition for Tariq Road with regard to shoes, and regardless of which part of the city a person hailed from, that was the place to go for the best variety.

    Fabric stores and jewellers too, began to abound, and as is the wont wherever shops proliferate, eateries mushroomed in the area. I remember, the first ever kebab roll joint, Silver Spoon, opened up there, offering its hot, tantalising kebabs to weary shoppers.

    Chinese restaurants followed close on its heels, offering shoppers the more comfortable option of dining indoors and relaxing before attacking the shops again. Parlours too, mostly run by Chinese women, became an intrinsic part of Tariq Road, so that a trip to this part of the city became much more than just a shopping experience.

    Gradually, Tariq Road started witnessing major transformations. While Saddar saw the closing down of some of its prominent shops, by and large, it didn't lose its identity, and looks much like it used to say 25 years ago. However, Tariq Road's landscape underwent massive changes over time, with the shopping area giving way to more and more malls, so that those visiting it after long intervals, invariably found some new building or the other, full of shops waiting to be discovered.

    It was only a matter of time though, before Tariq Road too, became sidelined, as all major residential localities such as Bahadurabad, Mohammed Ali Society, Clifton, Nazimabad, Haidri and Gulshan-e-Iqbal began to develop their own thriving commercial areas within their midst. Again, people from far-flung areas began restricting their shopping trips to Tariq Road, and for the most part, opted to shop in their own areas.

    Another factor that contributed greatly to shoppers adhering to their own areas for shopping was the proliferation of the weekly bazaars all over the city. The Tuesday and Sunday Bazaars have become no less than socialising grounds for residents within their own areas, and become immensely popular, offering practically everything under the sun from groceries to stitched and unstitched clothes to crockery to furniture - all at affordable prices.

    However, when Zamzama came up in the posh Defence locality, it was another story. Known as the Rodeo Drive of Karachi, the upscale Zamzama offered to customers what none of the other shopping areas could dream of - boutiques stocked by the top designers of the country. Shoppers once again began to flock from all directions to this busy boulevard which boasted exclusive shopping, so that rapidly the lanes became too narrow and congested for the heavy flow of traffic it began to witness.

    And that was probably the cue for Park Towers to step into the picture. A shopping centre designed on the lines of western malls; complete with play area, eatery, super-market and spacious parking area, and located in the upscale Clifton area, with easy access by public transport, including buses, this high-end outlet soon became the rage, even with people from distant areas. It is not difficult to guess why - not only does it offer the complete shopping experience in an air-conditioned, clean environment it has also become an ideal spot to spend an evening with the family.

    Obviously, when a trend catches on, there are many to follow suit. The next shopping mall of this calibre to come up was the Forum in Clifton, and before long it too became a popular haunt with shoppers from all over the city. The fact that both these shopping centres offer different activities and marketing gimmicks every now and then has only served to increase their popularity with visitors, be they shoppers or not.

    While markets offering specialised products - like Zainab Market and Co-operative market - also continue to thrive for the sheer variety of their specific products, they obviously don't have the same customers coming in with great frequency. Today, with the long commutes and heavy traffic plying practically all streets of Karachi, it is only those shopping centres or areas that offer value addition that can entice people to leave the comfort of their own areas and venture forth for shopping on a regular basis. Thus, it is not just Park Towers and Forum, but also Makro, which offers all kinds of shopping under one roof and at competitive rates that are now the in-places for shopping, no matter which area you live in.

    Otherwise, so spread out has Karachi become and so diverse and self-sufficient the commercial areas of each locality, that for someone hailing from Defence for instance, shopping in places like Bahadurabad or Dhoraji, what to talk of Gulshan and Nazimabad is akin to shopping abroad. It's like exploring a whole new world - so what if it's in your own city! And, it sure beats the expense and hassles of travelling abroad particularly for shopping.
  12. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0
    [​IMG]
    Farwell arch erected by the Karachi Port for the Royal visit of King George V, 1906.​
  13. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0
    [​IMG]
    Habib Bank Plaza under construction, 1959.​
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  14. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0
    [​IMG]
    Lakshmi Building, Bunder Road, circa 1955.​
  15. Neo
    Offline

    Neo RETIRED

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    261
    Ratings:
    +0 / 3,885 / -0
    [​IMG]
    Hotel Intercontinental, circa 1958.​
    • Thanks Thanks x 1