What’s the connection between Bartle Frere, AJ and Mummy?

29 Sep

Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere was appointed the Commissioner of Sind in 1850.
He issued a decree in 1851, making it compulsory to use Sindhi language in place of Persian in Sind. The officers of Sind were ordered to learn Sindhi compulsorily to enable them to carry on day-to-day work efficiently.
He went on to become Governor of Bombay in 1862, returning to England in 1867 where he was made a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of The Star of India.

443px-Sir_(Henry)_Bartle_Frere,_1st_Bt_by_Sir_George_Reid
His career subsequently took him to Zanzibar, where he negotiated a treaty with the Sultan for the suppression of the slave trade, then South Africa where he was made High Commissioner. Perhaps he took on more than he bargained for….it couldn’t have been easy trying to impose an unpopular form of confederation on the region. Frere was sent to South Africa to turn this vital area into a secure bastion on the route to India, but was distracted from the task by the routine instability of the South African theatre.
He was recalled on charges of misconduct in 1880, and died in Wimbledon four years later from the effects of a severe chill.
In 1888, the Prince of Wales unveiled a statue of Frere on the Thames embankment. Mount Bartle Frere (1622m), the highest mountain in Queensland, Australia is named after him, as is a boarding house at Haileybury. A road in Parktown, Johannesburg, is also named after him. (Frere Road is also the home of Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning author). In Durban, there are two roads which honour him: the first, Frere Road, transforms a little later to Bartle Road.

Frere Hall in Karachi was built in his honour. The city also named a road, street and town after him.

Out of twelve designs submitted, the one by Lt. Col St. Clair Wilson was chosen and construction started in 1863. It was opened by Samuel Mansfield, the Commissioner of Sind in 1865.

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This picture is from the 1880’s

The total cost of this hall was about Rs. 180,000 out of which the Government contributed Rs. 10,000 while the rest was paid for by the municipality. The style is Venetian Gothic, executed in yellowish Karachi limestone and red and gray sandstone from Jungshahi, an area rich in minerals, connected to Karachi during British rule by the North Western Railway.

(information picked out of Wikipedia) 

Why did I choose to delve into this bit of history today?

It is because of a bunch of photos of old Karachi that were forwarded to me on email. I picked this picture of Frere Hall to post here today as it was the oldest in the lot.

And also because a hundred years after construction began on the site, AJ brought Mummy here in a rickshaw for their second date. I wish I had a picture of the two of them as they were in 1963…..but I don’t.

But in 49 years of being together and living in different parts of Karachi, Mummy and AJ have spent the last 22 just a stone’s throw away in this area named Frere Town after Bartle Frere.

Fugitives!~1952….a story of migration (2/2)

1 Jun

The Sessions Court of Mehsana ordered AJ and Nanima to leave Sidhpur with immediate effect…….this meant that they could not even return home to collect their belongings. What if they were arrested…..? 

Deeming it too risky, they abandoned all thoughts of going back to Sidhpur, travelling instead directly to Ahmedabad from Mehsana….with only the clothes on their backs…victims of circumstance, at the mercy of fate.

Nanima’s uncle, Hasanali Kadak lived in Ahmedabad. The displaced duo were invited to stay with him for ten days or so. From there they went onwards to Pratapgarh in Rajasthan, where Nanima’s sister, Hayati baisaheb lived. (She was the wife of Hebtullah bhaisaheb, parents of Tahir bhaisaheb, the aamil of Pratapgarh)

Since they couldn’t stay in any one place for too long, they were forced to keep moving. So from Pratapgarh they left for neighbouring Galiakot to stay for some time in the musafirkhana near the mausoleum of Syedi Fakhruddin shaheed. 

Galiakot draws people from all over, being a pilgrimage site famous for its miracles, not just for Muslims but Hindus as well. My father remembers the trees around the roza, hammered with thousands of pieces of paper, inscribed with urgent pleas....

AJ and Nanima stayed there for around fifteen or twenty days, whiling away time, waiting for Hatim to arrange for another permit from Pakistan…

Finally, they made their circuitous way to Bombay by train, where Hatim’s father-in-law (the studio owner) put them up in an empty flat he owned, ostensibly so the police wouldn’t be able to track their whereabouts.

While all this hide and seek was playing out, 16 yr old AJ had other, more pressing worries on his mind.

He had to appear for his Matric exams (with the centre in Surat) in a few days, and all his books were at home in Sidhpur. He had no idea how he was ever going to sit for the exams without being able to study for them…

Fortunately, the principal of Saify Jubilee High School back in Sidhpur (with the decidedly Potter-esque name of Badruddin Blue) counted AJ as one of the brightest of the lot that was to appear for the exams that year, therefore he was most concerned about AJ’s plight. Of course, he had the reputation of his school to be concerned about too……so AJ was indispensable and was being counted on to bring academic credit and honour to his school. Therefore, he took pains to send AJ his entrance form for the board exams, complete with a photograph that had been cut out from a group photo that had been taken at a school outing earlier that year.

And so it came to be that while Nanima stayed in Bombay, AJ made his way to Surat, all by himself and armed only with an entrance form, a mere two days before the finals.

He found the musafirkhana in Surat and stayed there until he was joined by his classmates from Sidhpur (he remembers looking out from a window and seeing the familiar faces of his friends and himself going out to join them)

Among his friends was a certain Jaffer bhaisaheb (familiar to Bohras from Karachi) who had a house in Surat, empty and unlived in. The entire group, all 22 of them, relocated to Jaffer bhaisaheb’s place, where AJ promptly fell very ill.

Displaced, unprepared, and now running a high fever, AJ faced exams for ten subjects over the next five days….two papers a day…

(Every evening him and all his friends would go over to a shop called Badshah for cold drinks…..apparently, that shop still exists.)

AJ got on a train back to Bombay on the 6th day. When he reached, the permit for Karachi had already arrived.

In a couple of days they were off, on a plane bound for Karachi….leaving Sidhpur behind forever.

—————————————

Only four of those 22 boys passed the Matric exams from the Saify Jubilee High School…..

My father was not only one of those four, he actually earned 2nd position.

The rest of them failed. Including Jaffer bhaisaheb. :)

(He passed away about two years ago)

Consequence of a trip in 1948…..(1/2)

31 May

My father’s Uncle Hatim was born in 1921 to the Rangoonwala family in Sidhpur, third in a line of five.

He went away to Poona to study medicine, but when he was done, coming back to a small inconsequential town like Sidhpur to practice was not an option. The subcontinent had been divided, and Pakistan had come into being, so Hatim decided to migrate to Karachi.

The year was 1948 and Hatim was twenty seven years old when, after an engagement that lasted several years, he decided it was time to tie the knot. But rather than going to Bombay for the wedding, the girls family was invited to come to Karachi.

His wife-to-be Sarah’s father owned a film processing studio in Bombay, known as General Photo Studio.

Hatim was not an established doctor as yet and had no money, but he was fortunate to have friends and well-wishers who helped him financially in setting up a home to receive his bride. (Perhaps the community played an active role in helping migrants from India?)

Salehbhai Vaagh arranged a place for him to live on Napier Road, Shujauddin Darbar advised him never to go into service and have his own clinic from the start, and Fidahussain Marvi (the author’s maternal grandfather) helped him out socially within the community, making sure he was blessed and approved by the community elders and clergy, facilitating his ‘nikaah’ and other solemn rites of passage.

In 1948, 12 year old AJ along with his Nanima traveled to Ahmedabad by train and from there to Karachi by plane, joined by his Uncle Yusuf who was working in Bombay. Hatim arranged for them a permit from the Government of the newly formed Pakistan so they could travel there as newly estranged Indians.

AJ recalls that the building his uncle lived in on Napier Road had three floors, the first of which was his clinic, and the second was his home. Nanima and AJ were made comfortable on the 3rd floor for the duration of their stay, a visit that lasted eight to nine months, long enough for Hatim to insist that AJ be enrolled at the Sind Madressah so that his education would not be disrupted just because they were there for his wedding.

AJ remembers being taken for an entrance test and, having passed it, being admitted to Class 4 where he studied till they left to go back home to Yusufpura, Sidhpur in 1949.

Enter the Step Family….

AJ’s Nanima, Mariambai (daughter of Sheikh Shamsuddin Miyajiwala, aamil of Sidhpur) was the second wife of Mulla Akberali Mulla Qaderbhai Rangoonwala.

Mulla Akberali’s sons by his first wife, in a bid to take over the family home in Yusufpura where AJ and Nanima lived, slapped a case on them, declaring them to be Pakistanis from Pakistan.

The case lasted for about two years, but AJ doesn’t recall encountering any trouble from the law since the courts were in Mehsana, an hour away from Sidhpur by train.

It was her daughter Shirin’s husband Mohsin who handled the case on behalf of Nanima, and AJ accompanied her to Mehsana for the hearing. The Sessions Court ordered them to leave Sidhpur with immediate effect, and ‘go back’ to Pakistan.

All of a sudden, AJ and Nanima became fugitives, unable to return to Sidhpur for fear of being arrested…..

(to be continued…)

Mummy the ‘best friend’ ~ 1962.

27 Mar

Mummy was Zakia Aunty’s best friend at her wedding, and they’re also first cousins. She was 22 at the time, and was the fashionista of the family, loved to make clothes, wear sarees and high heels and absolutely adored jewellery, the funkier the better. Some things never change and Mummy is still the same 50 years down the road….

Zakia Aunty’s brother recently passed away in a terrible car accident on the highway to Hyderabad. Mummy went to sit with her a few days ago, came across a pile of old photographs in a plastic bag and was delighted to find pictures of herself. She was particularly pleased with this one :)

that's Mum there, in the saree with the sleeveless blouse, the pallu casually draped on the back of her head...

Well, I think she looks gorgeous! But then again, I may be biased ;)

This was two years before she got married to my father :)

The wedding took place in Hyderabad.

Zakia Aunty’s mother was my mother’s aunt, my grandmother’s sister and her name was Zehra. She had the distinction of having coloured eyes (a very unusual thing in our family) with the consequence that all her children have light-coloured eyes too. (Zakia Aunty’s are light brown.) Zehra Masi (‘masi’ = aunt ) was very fond of Mummy because Mummy was so very talented and full of great ideas and forever doing creative things. When Mummy developed asthma (around the age of 7 or 8) she was sent away to Hyderabad for a year or two so as to be in a drier climate compared to Karachi, and there she lived with Zehra Masi and her family. So when the time came for Zakia to be married, who better to be her sidekick than Khatija?

Mummy the fashionable moral suppport, as Zakia unties the 'sehra'

Both the necklaces Mummy is wearing in these pictures were brought especially for her by her father all the way from Paris. In an age when ‘real’ jewellery (i.e anything to do with gold) was ubiquitous, Mummy wore her funky Parisian jewellery with style! (Shall we take a closer look?)

Zakia was around 4 or 5 years younger than my mother (and still is, of course) so I guess she must have been impressionable enough to let Mummy make her a dress to wear at her own wedding! Mummy called her up a couple of days ago to ask her who made the dress and Zakia said ‘Why, you of course!’

(I still can’t get over it)

She even made her a veil and a little bouquet….just like in an ‘English’ wedding! :D

Insha ji utho…

10 Dec

This evening I found myself humming an old ghazal.

Show me one self-respecting Pakistani who grew up watching PTV who does not know of or heard Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, and I’ll show him/her this:

 

 

And of course, one of my favourite patriotic songs.

 

 

Ustad Amanat Ali Khan (1922-1974) moved to Pakistan soon after Independence, a worthy classical singer and representative of the famous Patiala gharana.

Insha ji Utho’ was penned by Ibn e Insha, a leftist Urdu poet, humorist and columnist who also moved to Pakistan from Indian Punjab.

I can’t tell you much more about this song except that it means, ‘get up Insha ji, let’s leave here…no use setting your heart on this city’ (or something to that effect)

But while searching for it on Youtube, I stumbled across a video of Amanat Ali Khan’s son Asad singing ‘Insha ji utho’ for his first live performance on PTV, sometime in the 70’s.

And the reason why I share it here is because of the audience….

 

 

How many people did you recognize? :)

NED, 1963.

24 Nov

The Debate Society.

my father, seated far left.

and here, standing far right, wearing glasses this time.

Mum in Mama school….late 40’s, spilling over into the 50’s

18 Sep

Mummy was transferred to The Mama Parsi Girls Secondary School in class III. Before this she went to the Saifiyah Girls School, a Dawoodi bohra community school.

I guess she didn’t really learn the English language all that well there, because she and her sister Maimuna had to be sent to Amy, Gooly’s sister, for tuitions.

Mummy on the left, Maimuna on the right

Gooly was my mother’s best friend in school, a Parsi. They’re still in touch, more than half a century later.

Gooly with Iskander Mirza's Iranian wife, Naheed begum. Mummy is standing next to her with cinched waist and curly hair

Mummy never really studied but she managed to have a good academic record, and won The Shield for Best Girl in class X.

Every morning they would have P.T, and then all the students stood outside class for inspection. Shoes, nails, uniform, hair, pins—anything amiss and there would be minus marks.

Lunch was in school, and for Mum, that was the most wonderful time of the day.

There was a dining room with tables, and come lunchtime, around 1:30, the servants carrying tiffins with home-cooked food would start arriving by tram. She remembers a girl called NurJehan….very stylish….her lunch was very proper with all the works, including a placemat for her spot on the table. Mum thinks she was Khoja, which might explain the ‘properness’. The main reason for such an elaborate lunchtime was because the girls played games after classes were over, and hometime was at 5 o clock! The food would be shared all around, and Mummy remembers vividly how much her friends especially enjoyed the tiffin that came for her from her house….the food would all disappear in a flash :)

Little Mummy was in class VI or VII when she auditioned for a show on Radio Pakistan and got selected, but the principal, Ms Thompson (a Goan Christian) didn’t allow her to to go for it, she doesn’t remember why or much care about it. It’s not like her hopes for a fabulous career in radio were dashed or anything. It was just for a lark, and like a lark, the opportunity flew away.

Games consisted of basketball, tennis and tenniquoits for Mum. She enjoyed the exercises they were put through, taking pride in her flexibility, and remembers the games cupboards were full of dumbbells and clubs which they used for their exercise routines while Mrs Jacob played lively tunes on the piano.

There were performances in formations for visiting guests and dignitaries and the girls wore special smart tunics for these. Mummy was a regular participant until she became self-conscious about her bare legs and stopped, and henceforth it was said in her report, ‘She does not take active part in sports, but she is a good spectator.’ :)

Mummy was used to being the ‘favourite.’ She had great handwriting, very neat, and her books were made examples of, as were her drawings. She took pains over her diagrams and illustrations, and her Geography and Science journals were works of art so the teachers just loved her. She would always be 1st or 2nd in class.

There was a cooking class conducted by Ms Jerbai, and she taught the girls to cook things like….. jaggery toffee……sago pudding…….bread pudding…..dhansak…..potato and mince cutlets….

There were laundry classes by Ms Divecha, who taught them how to starch and press napkins, boiling them with soda first to remove stains, using scrubbing boards.

Ms Rodrigues taught needlework, and Mrs Engineer taught history or some such subject.

There would be assembly every morning after the bell and there would be prayers, Parsi style, reciting the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda prayer…

addendum:  1) All the girls were grouped into one of four ‘Houses’, named after four prominent Parsi philanthropists of Karachi. They were Mama house, Contractor house, Pochaji house and Dinshaw house. Mummy was a proud member of the Pochaji house, and all her daughters were subsequently placed in the same :)

2) Maimuna dropped out of school in class 5 as she suffered from headaches….

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