INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

October 28, 2014

GOANS AND PARSIS KARACHI’S FORGOTTEN COMMUNITIES

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:48 am

Goans

Injudicious comments by Kursheed Ali Shah, the PPP leader followed by Bilawal’s remarks about MQM have led to controversies. In quest to score political brownies, both parties tended to amplify their contribution to Karachi. Both forget that their contribution to Uroos ul Bilaad, the ‘bride of cities and ‘city of lights’ is meagre.

MQM is a national political party that grew out of the deprivations and injustices meted to segments of Pakistanis. They were labeled with social taboos and unchivalrous temperament. MQM reacted the way any deprived segment of an urban society would; gradually expanded and secured a firm hold in Sind’s urban areas.

But within this realpolitik, both parties forget that the rapid development and strength of Karachi was built on diversity, in which multi-cultural and multi religious groups complemented each other to forge a melting pot. The fact that the city is now torn by uncertainty and strife owes much to their divisive agendas. Karachi a city of opportunity had something for everyone; ‘Karachi that was’ is not the ‘Karachi that is’.

No one can claim exclusivity for building modern Karachi, least the modern masters. There was no Pakistan or modern Sindh when the first batch of Baloch and Mekrani fishermen set camp on the shores to call it Mai Kolachi. With local integration it was renamed Kalochi Jo Goth. In mid-18th century the Dutch named it Kurrachee in a dispatch. With Bombay not yet developed, it became the only port of entry to India. The city became a business hub and East India Company was quick to move in.

In the 19th and 20th century entrepreneurs and adventurers, amongst them Guajaratis, Parsis, Goan Christians, Anglo Indians, Jews, Arabs, Lebanese, Marathis, Arabs, Chinese and Asians of Uganda began debouched for its promise. What remains of the Jews is a graveyard in dilapidated condition. These adventurers worked tirelessly as workers, businessmen, developers, administrators, academicians, doctors, musicians, soldiers and sportsmen to give Karachi its diverse culture. In doing so, they also shaped Pakistan by evolving a management and administrative infrastructure that despite 50 years of mismanagement still delivers. A glance at the list of names on Municipal Corporation, Karachi Divisional Council, and Mayors indicates the strength of diversity.  Few know that the modern city of Seoul South Korea is modeled on Karachi. As Karachi ceded to forces of intolerance the peaceful and serene city became insecure. The architects fled.

It was after colonialisation of Karachi that modern development work began. Napier eyed Karachi for its port and agriculture produce of the Indus Basin. Railway lines and roads were constructed to link Karachi up country while commerce and industry grew. The major workforce comprised Goans.

Two communities that stand out for giving Karachi the face it has are Parsi businessmen cum philanthropists and the Goan Christians. Parsis made a big contribution with their handsome donations, investments and social centers. Goans followed with their skilled manpower and organizational ability. As the city fell victim to lawlessness, the Parsis are mostly gone leaving behind deserted infra structures vulnerable to property mafias.  The majority of Goans and Anglo Pakistan’s have also migrated. Those who remain cling together in closely knit communities and love being Pakistanis in a city their elders tell owes them their sweat and blood. They are active members of expatriate Pakistani communities’ world over. Living abroad, they feast with Sindi Baryani, tikkas and kebabs. A Goan settled in Margarita, Venezuela has named his house Pakistan.

In the 1947 partition turmoil, it was the Goans and Parsis that held the city together. The Hindus left and migrants poured in. The majority of health care, educational and civic facilities were run by these two communities. According to Menin Rodriguez, a Goan historian, “Goans in particular were in the limelight of everything, from municipality to customs, judiciary to policing, sports, music and stage plays to ballroom dancing, and of course cuisine. Goan cooks were favorites at British and Parsi homes, and at other foreign missions. Karachi, the capital of Pakistan, was a beautiful model-city of a fledgling country”.

Frank D’Souza, a member of the Railway Board of India set up Pakistan Western Railways on request of Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Cincinnatus D’Abreo a remarkable Goan ‘founder of modern Sindh’ established the city’s first township, called ‘Cincinnatus Town’ (now Garden East). Post partition, Karachi’s first elected Mayor was Manuel Misquita. As Terrance D’Souza recalled, he accompanied his Father and Mr. Misquita to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined them in thanksgiving prayers for Pakistan.

Though Mr Ahmad G. Chagla is credited for the composition of Pakistan’s National Anthem written by Hafeez Jullandari, few know that the actual scores and compositions were done by Chagla’s close Goan friend Tollentine Fonseca. Tollentine was a bandmaster in Pakistan Navy who wrote the scores of each instrument in a blend of Waltz and eastern music.  The Officers March, Dewan-e-Khas and Barcelona Waltz played by the brass bands of Pakistan’s armed forces are also his compositions.

In sports, O.B. Nazareth wrote the first constitution of the Hockey Federation of Pakistan. Milton D’Mello represented Pakistan in 1948 London Olympics as did the brilliant forward Jack Britto at Helsinki Olympics of 1952. Mathais Wallis, Antao D’Souza and Duncan Sharpe played test cricket for Pakistan. Michael Rodrigues, a General/Vascular & Cancer Surgeon was a National Boys Singles Table Tennis Champion for three years. Mennen Soares played for Pakistan in the All-England Thomas Cup World Championships in l 1950s. John Permal was Pakistan’s champion sprinter from 1964 to 1974. Raymond Brinksworth dominated the hurdles. Rose brothers Clyde, Nigel, Kevin and Brian were national boxing champions in their weights and represented Pakistan.

Goans have distinguished themselves in services. Christian fighter pilots form the single largest bulk of gallantry awards and martyrdom in PAF. Pinto Hall at Military Apprentice School at Barian Murree stands out as commemoration of a great Goan soldier. It was Colonel William Waterfield, the legendary adjutant of PMA whose guns silenced the Indians at Lahore in 1971. Goan officers remained the backbone of Pakistan Navy for a long time. Names like Gardner, Niblet, Snell and D’Souza are legendary in Pakistan’s Police Service. In judiciary, Charles and William Lobo, Pinto and Justice Cornelius are familiar names.

As Goan Pakistanis continue to serve the country in obscurity, who can forget the Late Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, who was awarded the Presidential Pride of Performance for services in the field of education.

I was brought up and educated in missionary schools with hostel facilities. My peers and teachers were mostly Anglo Pakistan’s and Goans. Hence there are many aspects of my life and outlook that actually reflect these communities.

Wing Commander Mervyn Middlecoat Shaheed (SJ and Bar) had not only been our neighbor but also a senior at school and inspired many to join the armed forces. Air Vice Marshal Eric G Hall SJ was also from St. Anthony’s and his mother was our messing in charge in the boarding. Table manners, turnout and social behavior is something we learnt from her. Maj Retired Jack Fardy (Paw) taught us Chemistry. Much later when I got commissioned to 13 Baloch Regiment (old 6/8 Punjab), I saw his name on the visitor’s Book. Captain Retired Evans taught us English Literature and Language. I owe all my writing skills to him.  He lived in my neighborhood and while training to join Pakistan Military Academy, I would often join him in early morning four mile runs. He would say, ‘early bird gets the worm’. Property mafia slit him to death in Lahore Cantt. Mr. Duesmont taught us physics. I remember, he once got a stroke in class and I performed the first aid till the ambulance came. In those days Red Cross used to train students in First Aid.

Our Boxing coach Mr. Rose was out of this world. His four sons became National boxing champions. Clyde Rose was my class fellow and hostel mate. Seldom a high school produced four national champions. George Permal and Raymond Brinksworth inspired me into athletics. I and Peter Pearl became Lahore’s best long distance runners. Born with a cardio deformity, I exerted much below my abilities at Pakistan Military Academy, but once commissioned as officer, sky was the limit. I became a successful High Altitude Mountaineer and led my company and courses in 2 Mile, four Mile and 12 mile runs.

And then were those teen age crushes during weekend balls and fancy fairs. It taught us to treat girls as ladies and respect them. I owe all my communication skills to this amazing community.

Goans and Anglos were excellent street fighters that gave the name to St. Anthony’s for producing excellent soldiers and fighters. Our closest competitors Aithison College and Cathedral School dreaded us. Bonsons, O’Brians, Fernandez’, Gomes, Rodrigiez, D’Silvas, D’Souzas, Guerras, Niblets, Snells. Gardners, Tiernys, Lums and Razarios all inspired me. They were all my stock.

It is a pity; we lost these founders of Pakistan to intolerance. Not only Karachi, but also the country needs to recognize the services of this great community.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://nation.com.pk/columns/25-Oct-2014/karachi-s-forgotten-communities#disqus_thread

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6 Comments »

  1. Very beautifully written. I have been a student of all the teachers from St. Anthony’s mentioned in this article. You forgot to mention Miss. D’souza (Choozi) the art teacher and the famous Miss Frazier.

    Comment by Ahmed Mahmood — October 30, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

  2. Tolerance and celebration of diversity; fair play, acknowledgement of truth, do unto others as you would have done unto you are forgotten or dimly remembered aspects of morality.
    Zealotry, self righteous, ruthless intolerance, savage cruelty are the norms we live by now.
    Karachis dwellers of all colours, creeds and faith once upon a time worked and lived together in harmony to make this a better world. We should honour their memory if nothing else.

    Comment by farmerdr — November 4, 2014 @ 9:13 am

  3. Very well written article.

    Comment by wayne — August 2, 2015 @ 6:08 pm

  4. You forgot Mr J.J. D’Mello the first Goan Christion to be the Chairman Secretary Railway board of Pakistan Railways. Research on him and if you could write an article on Him.

    Comment by JJ — September 8, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

  5. Very detailed history of christians in Pakistan, really admire the courage and dedication of all. Bravo Sir.

    Comment by Julius Chohan — August 2, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

  6. In the field of education Prof LA Desouza (Physics), prof Sidhwa (Chemistry) and
    Prof Mrs C.K Medora(Microbiology) are not mentioned.

    Comment by Dr. M. Imran Siddiqui — August 3, 2016 @ 6:53 pm


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