The early Goans came here in large numbers brimming with hope, a mixed bag of talents and conquered the very fabric of the society by their sheer hard-work and resolve to succeed, wielding great influence on the local community. Theoretically, a place like Karachi did not have an identity of its own. At the time of independence, the Hindus were leaving, the Panagirs (as they were referred then) were coming, and the Parsis and Goans were in essence, managing the affairs of the city. So in a nutshell, Karachi's character as a well-planned, well-organized and well-administered city was truly the mainstay of these two civic-conscious communities.
As far as the non-Parsis and non-Christians were concerned, their educational, health-care and civic needs were provided for by these communities - with renowned schools, colleges, hospitals, maternity homes, clinics, etc. Clubs, pubs and wine stores were found everywhere. While the generous Parsis built and gifted magnificent city-landmarks, including water-troughs for horses; 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 foreign missions. Karachi, the capital of Pakistan, my friends was a beautiful model-city of a fledgling country.
From the historic hockey defeat inflicted on Bhopal Wanderers (comprising of several players from India's gold-medal team of the 1936 Berlin Olympics) by the mostly-Goan school-boys team of St. Patrick, to the securing of Pakistan's railway lines in 1947 by Frank D'Souza (see below) on the request of the Quaid-e-Azam; and from Archbishop Joseph Cordeiro becoming Pakistan's first Roman-Catholic Cardinal (1973) to the staging of Karachi's first Gilbert and Sullivan musical operettas in the 1950s; are just a few milestones etched with Goan livery and legacy that will remain part of Pakistan's and Karachi's untold history.
Frank D'Souza, who was born in Karachi and studied here, became the first Indian to be appointed by the British as a member of the Railway Board of India. At the time of partition, Jinnah specifically requested Frank D'Souza for his help to set-up the Railway System in Pakistan. Frank agreed, but made one condition, that his home in Pakistan would be de-requisitioned. Jinnah and the Pakistan Government agreed. On completion of his job in Pakistan, Frank returned to India and gave his beautiful house in Karachi to the nuns to be used as a home for the aged. What an excellent man! (*)
When on May 31, 1935 at 1.30 a.m., the great Quetta earthquake killed 75,000 people with one big jolt; a Goan Manuel Mendes working on the Sukkur Barrage Scheme was given charge of clearing the city of debris and corpses with teams of over 400 sappers and miners. He did it with dedication, determination and distinction. (*)
When Pakistan came into being in 1947, the prominence of Goans was evident from the fact that one of Karachi's first elected Mayors was Manuel Misquita; it was a time when the city's judiciary, the armed forces, municipality, police, customs, telegraphs, hospitals, educational institutions, the port trust, railways and the world of music, sports and fashion, were without an iota of doubt, ruled by this highly educated, talented and law-abiding community.
Goans continue to live in Karachi today, about 10,000 odd, but are relatively quiescent. Up to independence and a decade or two later, the community played an influential role in the city's growing prominence as a major seaport, business hub and a stylish cosmopolitan metropolis - a sister-city to the Bombay constituency and a match to London's grandeur! The many landmarks, now vandalized or vanished, and almost forgotten, are testimony of the city's eminence.
Sadly, today's Karachi is in a great rush to exceed its own potential, making and breaking its own rules. The Goan community is all but forgotten, living in obscurity and marginalized due to the influx of cultures and communities who have no knowledge of the city's glorious past. If I have to summarize the historical perspective of this city, it will have to be a dual effort - the Karachi and its people of another time and era, and the Karachi of today, a mixed-pot of a multitude of communities, cultures and complex ethnicity and political problems.
But Karachi, the city of my birth and daily-bread, is a sizzling metropolis; growing, growing and continues to grow, as I write, about 18 million people, one of the largest in the world. Reportedly, there are 13 administrative groups from amongst the Cantonment, Provincial and City Governments. There is no real ownership, everyone's a king! A city that in 1946-47 - clean and majestic - was a one-man determination of Mayor Manuel Misquita, is now looking for deliverance - I know it will come! The signs are already in place; our young and energetic Nazim (Mayor) Mustafa Kamal has bulldozed his way to build almost 30 flyovers and underpasses in three years - an unprecedented achievement. Skyscraper zones have also been identified!
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