WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2015
As the sun shimmered down across the horizon of a beleaguered city on a balmy
evening of December 30, the penultimate sunset of 2015 took away with it a year
fraught with anguish and snags. Yet at the same time it brought to a close
plentiful joyous moments and amazing advancements in digital and space
technology, and life-saving medicine.
Earlier today, I had chanced upon the Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) to review
arrangements for the annual fund-raising New Year’s Night Ball organized by
Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP). Going to KPI this afternoon was like ‘coming
home’ after many, many years; a place where I played numerous cricket
matches, jogged every morning with my chum DC and spent weekends watching
some of the greats play top-grade cricket. R.S. Cooper and Homi Mobed were
the favorites of my time.
If there was a weekend fun game on hand, it was at the KPI. The team had
serious contenders, they would bat, bowl and field like any other team, all action-
packed but it was their fun and laughter in the dressing room that made many a
keen spectator like me to enjoy the frivolity of the moment. Full of puns, swears
and the proverbial abuse (ga’ali) – which as a matter of fact, was a part of their
linguistic parlance, the dressing room atmosphere at the KPI could easily beat a
Norman Wisdom out of his wits.
I romped around the KPI building, peeped into the back veranda (facing the
ground), took a quick look at the sparkling new swimming pool (just behind the
cricket pavilion) and finally moved to the front. Curiosity encouraged me to walk
up the stairway onto to the front veranda where I met three of my Parsi friends
wiling away their time sipping tea. “Where is everybody?” I inquired.
Darayas Karanjia was quick to inform me that very few members of the Parsi
community are left in Karachi, or for that matter all of Pakistan. “Hardly anybody
comes here, we have all the facilities but nobody to use them,” he said. He
asked me to go inside the billiard and snooker room; there were two well-kept
tables with ageing attendants. The room was air-conditioned and was adorned
with some historical pictures, national heroes and KPI’s own men’s and ladies
cricket teams. There was one of a Ladies Team of 1933! Post-Pakistan greats
Rusi Dinshaw (only Parsi test cricketer), Minoo Mavalvala (National Snooker
Champion) and Byram & Goshpi Avari (Asian Games Gold Medalists) have also
been given due recognition.
The once pristine green of the KPI where on January 11, 1959 the great
Pakistani Hanif Mohammad scored his marathon world record of 499 runs, is
now a forlorn sight, the large tract is now given away for wedding and corporate
functions. I am quite sure the tennis courts at the far-end of the ground have
vanished too and was not surprised when told that the KPI Cricket team has
I was really sad to have seen what had happened to KPI, it had lost its charm.
Though small in numbers, the community has always been bighearted and their
contributions to Karachi’s early development are phenomenal. The early beauty
of Karachi as a city which prompted Sir Charles Napier, the first Governor
General of Sindh, to pen his famous words, ““You will be the glory of the East;
would that I come again to see you Karachi, in your grandeur!” is mainly due
to the magnanimous contributions of the Parsis of Karachi.
I grew up with Parsi neighbors and friends, and have always found this
community to be among the most lovable, friendly, kind-hearted, cooperative,
fun-loving, well-mannered and very generous. There were loads of them in the
1960s and 1970s, and many more before that time. The 1980s and 1990s saw
the numbers go down and before we knew, the community had almost become
extinct. I was told by my friends that 1,500 people or less now live in Karachi.
So here is my wishful thought: Don’t go away! To those who have gone