Do You Know Who They Are?
FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2017
In the summer of 2016, the office of the Commissioner Karachi (Mr. Ejaz Ahmed
Khan) asked me to contribute an article to their Newsletter. The commissioner
wrote: “I have been given a platform to show our readers the city’s rich past, its
diverse culture, and all the information that is vital to know; this is the real
Karachi, the Karachi I grew up in and love”
THIS IS WHAT WAS GIVEN AND PUBLISHED:
Fact File 1 – Do you know that the official picture of Quaid-e-Azam,
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the one we see on our currency notes was taken by
a Goan, Arthur Sequeira, at the I. Sequeira & Sons Studios (where Atrium
Mall stands today) in 1944?
Very few of today’s Karachiites would know much about the GOAN Christian
community of Karachi. These people came here from the Portuguese colony of
Goa, now a popular state in the west-coast of India, from as early as mid-19th
century. They came here in ocean going vessels and stayed on for economic
reasons (some sailed on to Africa) and thus were among the earliest settlers of
Goans, peaceful and simple in their ways, have always been small in numbers,
roughly 20,000 at their peak in the 1960s and 70s – but their contribution to this
city is laudable. Almost half of the community has migrated, finding it difficult to
integrate into today’s complex diversity. Nevertheless, those who remain here
are hardworking, active and vibrant within their own realms. Roland de Souza of
Shehri has done much to this day to advocate the protection of the built-
environment of the city and other civic issues.
Pre-partition Karachi of British India grew as a bustling metropolis, well-laid out,
beautiful in stature, with stately mansions, palatial homes, magnificent
landmarks, gardens, fountains, wide roads, tramways, clean, healthy and was
governed with sincerity. It was not a very large city, population wise (about
450,000 in 1947) but all civic amenities were in place; and Goans contributed to
its ascendancy in their own conspicuous ways.
Fact File 2 – Do you know that the delicious cake made on the occasion of
a civic reception hosted by the Mayor of Karachi, Hakeem Muhammad
Ahsan in honour of the Quaid-e-Azam in 1947, was prepared by a Goan,
Peter Felix Pereira?
Like many other communities of that time, the Hindus, Jews, Parsis, Khojas,
Gujratis and Bohra communities, the Goans though were a breed apart. Well
educated, excellent administrators, entrepreneurs, disciplinarians and talented
organizers, they were meticulous in their endeavors. Many Goans served in the
judiciary, municipality, port trust, police, healthcare and the social sectors.
Manuel Misquita was the Mayor of Karachi in 1945-46.
Among their significant contributions to the city of Karachi of the early and mid
1900s, include the planning of ‘Cincinnatus Town’ (now called Garden East, and
which was named after Cincinnatus D’Abreo, one of the founding fathers of
Sindh, as noted in the book ‘Karachi – the megacity of our times’ by Hamida
Khuhro and Anwer Mooraj). It was Karachi’s first planned township.
D’Abreo was also the founder of the largest life-assurance company in all-India in
1906 called the ‘Indian Life Assurance Company – ILACO’ later known as Ideal
Life Assurance Company. The imposing ILACO building is still standing in all its
majesty in Saddar on Zaibunissa Street (formerly Elphinstone) opposite
The Goan community has contributed significantly in many facets of life in
Karachi but the three most important ones are education, sport and music.
Karachi’s best known educational institutions such as St. Patrick’s, St. Joseph’s,
Convent of Jesus & Mary, St. Lawrence’s, St. Paul’s and others, excelled due to
a predominant influence of Goan teachers – mostly before the 1970s. Goan
teachers were true mentors, kind at heart, intelligent and concentrated more on a
student’s growth as a good human being firstly, and then to become a good
student. Character building was given a lot of importance.
In the schools mentioned above, many Goan teachers completed their golden
and silver jubilees as teachers – their dedication and sincerity to the noblest of
professions, personified. Thousands of students of Karachi and all of Pakistan,
boys and girls, have been greatly influenced by their Goan teachers.
Fact File 3 – Do you know that Goan teachers influenced the lives of
several Karachi folks who went to serve Pakistan as Presidents, Prime
Ministers, Chief Justices, Governors, Chief Ministers, Generals, Air-
Marshals and Admirals?
Goans excelled in sports like no other community of Karachi. From 1947 onward,
they were prominent in hockey, cricket, badminton, table tennis and athletics.
Some represented Pakistan in Olympic hockey (O.B. Nazareth, as co-manager
and Milton D’Mello in 1948 London and Jack Britto in 1952 Helsinki). Michael
Rodrigues (now a doctor in the USA) was a 5-time national table tennis
champion in the early 1960s. Mathais Wallis and Antao D’Souza played test
cricket for Pakistan.
Karachi was the center of a variety of sporting activity; there were more open
spaces in the city in the 1960s and 1970s than we have today. Where have they
Goan women in Karachi were very good sports people, they did well at the city
and country levels at all times. Many of them went on to don the national colors,
these included Coral Barboza in Badminton, Yvonne Fernandes in table tennis,
and sprinters, Sophie Fernandes, Dolores Almeida, Rose D’Lima and Sylvia
D’Mello – each one of them winning the title of “Fastest Woman in Pakistan”!
Karachi has been a fascinating city, full of life, lights and laughter! There were
never a dull moment in the Karachi of yore and music was at the heart of this
frivolity. The contribution of Goan musicians is immense, from its early night club
performances in the 1950s and 1960, to the dazzling discotheques of the 1970s
and 1980s. As a matter of fact, the foundation of the city’s (read country) popular
(pop) music scene was laid by these versatile master musicians, keyboardists,
guitarists, drummers, saxophonists and vocalists.
I am sure today we have all heard about the multi talented Louis (Gumby)
Pinto, the drummer; and Alicia Dias, the crooner, and a host of backup
musicians who are part of some of the best bands in the city.
Fact File 4 – Do you know that four Karachi Goan maidens, Sophie
Fernandes, Delores Almeida, Rose D’Lima and Sylvia D’Mello, were among
the ‘fastest women athletes’ of Pakistan, and “Xavier Sisters” the first all-
women pop band of Pakistan?
The Karachi Goan Association (KGA) is a 130 years old institution, a place where
Goans excelled in sport, music, theatre and ballroom dancing! The KGA probably
has the largest wooden dance floor in Karachi. On special occasions, it is always
Life for Karachi Goans today is challenging, the community has lost its spark and
with it, its identity. To many of them, Karachi is their first love, and they will
continue to believe in the city of their birth, wherever they may be and for all
times to come.
For more information about the contribution of GOANS to the development of
Pakistan, please visit: http://www.goansofpakistan.org