Tag Archives: Karachi

The Protagonists

23 Sep

19th September marked the 50th anniversary of Mummy and AJ’s wedding.

The year was 1964. A young good-looking man, on his way to work, would pass by a certain balcony on Marriott Road. Unbeknownst to him, a pair of shapely eyes would wait to catch glimpses.

No words nor glances were ever exchanged.

So imagine her surprise when his people approached her people to ask for her hand for him. She saw no reason to refuse.

They were engaged in July, ’64…..

pic59-wedding…….married in September.

pic38-300dpi

pic28-300dpi

Advertisements

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.

538938_580557245302691_191017818_n

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.

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…)

NED, 1963.

24 Nov

The Debate Society.

my father, seated far left.

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

College days (AJ writes to the President!)

5 Jul

Something about this picture makes me look at it more closely.

Well-dressed young men in suits posing on a railway platform…on the verge of a journey….47 years ago.

That’s my father in the white shirt and tie, standing second from the right. The year was 1964, and the college was sending a batch of final year students on a 20-day educational tour, to visit major industries and hydro-electric power plants around Pakistan.

A special bogey had been booked for them on the train, a group of 40 students….the ‘cream’ of the crop as they were called by the principal of NED Government Engineering College in Karachi.

But let’s rewind the tape a couple of years…

My father (whom I refer to as ‘AJ’ in this blog) did his B.Sc. from DJ Science College, located in the heart of old Karachi. ‘DJ’ stands for Diwan Dayaram Jethmal, a Sindhi philanthropist whose financial support was instrumental in building the college. The foundation stone for the college was laid in 1882 by Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy of India and was inaugurated as the Sindh Arts College by Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay.

DJ Science College, many many moons ago.

So, my father did his Bachelors degree in this glorious institution, unfortunately flunking Urdu and Religious Knowledge in his Intermediate year. But don’t blame him dear readers, bear in mind that my father came from Sidhpur….where the medium of his education had been Gujarati.

freshly baked graduate 🙂

He wanted to pursue engineering after that, and to that end he applied for admission at the NED College of Engineering, the oldest engineering institute in Pakistan…..

This institution was initially founded as the Prince of Wales Engineering College with the donations of the citizens of Karachi to commemorate the visit made by the Prince of Wales to the city in 1921. The College was renamed as the NED Engineering College in 1924 in memory of Mr. Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw, a well-known philanthropist, whose heirs made substantial donations for the development of the College on his first death anniversary.

AJ’s form was rejected at the NED, for the simple reason that he had crossed the age limit for applying…..by 6 whole months.

All of a sudden, he was at a loss. He HAD to get into NED somehow, but it seemed there was nothing he could do. Desperate, he could only think of one course of action. He must write a letter to the Chief Martial Law Administrator of the country.

But first, here’s a little video to give you a picture of Karachi in those days, and the man himself: Ayub Khan.

Muhammad Ayub Khan, (May 14, 1907 – April 19, 1974) was a General and later self-appointed Field Marshal in the Pakistan Army and the first military dictator of Pakistan, serving as the second President of Pakistan from 1958 to 1969. He became the Pakistan Army’s first native Commander in Chief in 1951, and was the youngest full general and self-appointed 5 star rank Field Marshal in Pakistan’s military history.
Appointed Commander in Chief after the death of several senior generals, a combination of ambition and his distate for politicians led to his increased interference in Pakistani politics. Close to President Iskander Mirza, Khan supported the President’s decision to declare martial law in 1958 but had ousted him shortly afterwards, becoming increasingly frustrated by the level of corruption, he overthrew the government and declared himself President.

AJ wrote to Ayub Khan, saying he wanted to be an engineer but had crossed the age limit for admission. Could he help him?

He sent off the letter and let fate decide what it wanted to do with his dreams.

He was working at his uncle’s shop at that time, the Small Tools and Hardware Supply Agency on Nicol Road in the Wazir Mansion building, named after the Quaid’s house. About eight or ten days later, AJ got a phone call at the shop.

It was the principal of NED.

AJ was out on an errand in the bazaar, so his uncle (Yusuf) sent someone to go search for him. He had been asked to come to the college immediately.

‘Are you a cricketer?’ asked Pestonji, the principal of NED, as my athletic-looking father walked into his office.

boxer!

AJ replied that he did play cricket, but he wasn’t a cricketer. He played a lot of volleyball back in Sidhpur, and was a table tennis champion at DJ. He was also a champion at chess. And boxing.

‘Why did you write a letter to the President??’

AJ told him that was the only thing he could think of in order to get admission in the college.

Pestonji looked at him, then smiled and told him to hurry up and fill out the application form once again and submit it along with the 150 rupee admission fee and three photographs by 3 o clock in the afternoon.

——————————

So it came to be that my father spent four years studying at one of the top engineering colleges in those days, and the reason why he was one of a group of forty final year students on a railway station in 1964.

Who knew then where their journey would take them.

But it’s easy to understand why he should have a soft spot for Ayub Khan in his heart.

Before the Divide. Karachi, early 40’s.

24 Feb

Last night, a friend posted this decades old video, taken by a British soldier during the final days of the British Raj in pre-partition Karachi.

I watched it, enthralled (as I’m sure you will too if you’re a Karachiite) and all I could think was…..THIS was the backdrop of my mother’s childhood..

I called her up first thing in the morning to tell her about the video and see what she could remember about those days, and what she said was a revelation for me….! I got dressed as fast as I could and dashed over to unearth some more of the past….from the horse’s mouth.

Mummy (Khatija) sitting on a stool on the left, Rubab (the eldest daughter) standing behind her. Maimuna sitting demurely on the floor, Nanima(Mariam) looking bemused and regal on the chair between them, Bawaji standing behind her, carrying Hatim(the eldest son). On the far right is Amina, Mariam's sister and Mummy's most talented aunt. And the lady in the middle? That's Bawaji's mother.

 

When Little Khatija was a year old (or thereabouts) 🙂

Mummy was born in 1940 to Mariam bai and Fida Hussain Marvi, third in a line of eight children, in the second year of the second World War. They were a well-to-do family amongst the old Bohra families of Karachi, and Bawaji (Mummy’s father) was an enterprising trader running a Lever Brothers agency, operating his flourishing business from the ground floor of a huge house on Marriot Road. Their family was known as ‘the house of the great Moghuls’ amongst Bawaji’s peers, for their prosperity and lavish lifestyle.

One of Mummy’s earliest memories is of British soldiers rolling down Bunder Road on army trucks, throwing chocolates to the excited children lining the street, standing by to watch the fascinating spectacle with their families.

She was 3 or 4 when Karachi was declared unsafe, it being a port city in a time of war, so the entire extended family, including aunts and uncles and their children, deemed it wise to bundle themselves into a coach of the North-West Railway and move to Sidhpur temporarily. Mummy was too small to remember anything much. All she knows, or was told, is people in Sidhpur (some of whom ended up being her unwitting in-laws!) adored her as the short, cute little thing with curly hair, famous for roaming around with a ‘jharoo’ and sweeping the patio of the house they stayed in, and they would hold her little hand and take her everywhere.

They ended up staying in Sidhpur for a couple of years, coming back when the coast was clear.

Mummy smiles wistfully as she recalls the peaceful, quiet life of the Karachi of her childhood. Those were the days when traffic consisted of bicycles and horse-drawn carriages (ghora-gaaris) camel carts (oonth-gaaris) and donkey-carts (gadha-gaaris). Troughs dotted the landscape as watering-holes for the thirsty animals. It was a clean city, where the streets were swept every day and washed with water.

Trams of the East India Tramway Company plied the streets with a route that went as far as Keamari on Bunder Road past the Boulton Market and Mereweather Tower. Other routes took people from Garden Road to Preedy street, from Frere Street to the Karachi Cantonment Station and from Bunder Road to Mansfield Street on to Commissariat Road and Soldier Bazaar. Another route took the tram to Lawrence Road.

Mummy has vivid memories of Marriot Road being permeated by the mouth-watering smell of frying pakoras and bhajias every evening. It was a popular snack, and a common sight to see people munching from a stash of pakoras in cones made of newspaper, accompanied with tea from a shop called Sadaqali chai-wala.

An old woman, generally addressed as ‘Dosi’ (old woman) would sit with her basket of red sour-sweet berries called ‘ber’ all strung together in strings, packets of sliced guavas, red badaams (almonds) and tiny little cucumbers called ‘kotimba’ (Mum thinks they’re extinct now). These snacks cost 1 paisa or 2 paisas in those days.

A woman called Sara sat by the wayside with a deg full of chickpeas in a savoury gravy. She made squares of bread smeared with red chilli paste, doused in the chickpea gravy and sold it by the plate. Mummy swore by its deliciousness.

It was a wonderful, enjoyable childhood for Mummy, with moonlit excursions to the Kothari Parade Ground and Lady Lloyd pier on Clifton beach. They would pile onto an oonth-gaari and set off for the far reaches of Clifton which were nothing but sand dunes then. Sometimes the road would get covered with drifting sand too, and it was an exciting, fun-filled expedition involving a long walk down to the beach, culminating in refreshments at a snack bar by the sea with the whole family laughing and enjoying each others company. But their favourite outing by far had to be the West Wharf at Keamari harbour, where they would hang out at the Native Jetty bridge (popularly known as ‘Netty Jetty’) and watch the goods-laden ships coming in.

Karachi was a small city then and its civilisation ended with certain landmarks. The Polo Ground was one, as was the ‘tekri’, or hill, where Quaid-e-Azam is now buried. Mummy remembers the ‘Parsi no kunwo’, a place shrouded in mystery for non-Parsis……I presume the Parsi Colony near present day Mehmoodabad must have been on the outskirts of the city then, as was a certain Sanatorium for patients of tuberculosis somewhere on Korangi road. It used to be that Karachi was populated mainly by those which are now known as the minorities. Marriot Road was full of Bohras, living amicably alongside the Hindus and the ubiquitous Parsis and Goan Christians and Khoja Isna’asharis of Saddar, Soldier Bazaar and Kharadar. (This is what Mummy recalls from her memories, which are at once clear as day yet fuzzy around the edges.)