·SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2017
From rocking the 1970s to reaching 70 years of age, this man, the legend, has
played an unimaginable serenading role in transforming the music scene in
Pakistan like no other in his brand of crooning. He is, without an iota of doubt, an
iconic person and the epitome of ‘western music’ phenomenon in Pakistan. He is
And the good thing is, he shares his glorious 70 years this year with
Norman’s contribution to the ‘popular’ variety of music and singing of the 1960s,
1970s and 1980s has been colossal; he is clearly one of the most popular
personalities of his era and continues to mesmerize audiences. As the lead
singer for some of Pakistan’s original live music bands, such as the Moon-Glows,
In-Crowd, Talismen, Keynotes etc; his voice alone could launch a thousand
people tapping their feet at discotheques, clubs and the party-scenes in Karachi.
When singing his favorite songs, his deep penetrating voice, powerful and soul-
searching, is familiar to the vocal chords of legendary artists such as Louie
Armstrong (What a Wonderful World); Frank Sinatra (My Way); Jim Reeves
(Put Your Sweet Lips); Billy Ocean (Caribbean Queen); Engelbert
Humperdinck (Please Release Me) and Tom Jones (Delilah).
Norman was among the first popular musicians to have been interviewed on
television’s mass-appeal ‘Zia Mohyuddin Show’ in the 1970s and also toured
Singapore with the Talismen, playing at the famed Merlin Hotel as the first pop-
band from Pakistan! One of his fans in the Far-East was none other than the
world boxing heavy-weight champion Joe Frazier! (See Picture)
Music and singing keeps him going. His 3-piece band today, including Gerard
Vanderlowen and Clifford Lucas is in great demand throughout Karachi at music
shows, club-evenings, weddings, family gatherings and special occasions. There
is no other group of musicians that can match this trio’s virtuosity in singing the
delightful songs of the golden era of music.
Above all, Norman has been a family man all through his life; his wife Nancy has
stood by him like a rock and his two girls Narissa and Nicole-Ann have made him
proud. I can recall the beautiful rendering of ‘But You Love Me Daddy’ which
Narissa sang as a 6-year old alongside Norman on the guitar. On the other hand,
the 70th birthday party surprise, aptly called “Vintage Dude” by Nicole-Ann was
indeed, very creative, thoughtful and stunning.
Though he is forever performing at some show or the other throughout Karachi,
he is always there in church lending his echoing voice at the daily morning Mass
at 6.30 a.m. and with his Sunday Morning Choir for the 8.00 a.m. service.
God bless you Norman. Keep going.
PTV KARACHI’S MOST POPULAR FROST SHOW WE PRESENTED AS “GAR TU BURA NA MANAY”
“Sach Khedoun Aie Barhamin…Gar Tu Bura Na Maanay
Tere Sanam Kadoun Ke Butth Ho Gaye Puranay”
This famous verse of Allama Iqbal had a whole meaning that one of its line was adopted by PTV-Karachi’s GM Aslam Azhar to create a comedy show—the Frost Report of David Frost kind—-in 1969 as “Gar Tu Bura Na Maanay” which had Mohsin Shirazi as it’s “David Frost” supported by a stock cast of four; Zafar Masood, Mohammad Yusuf, Zahoor Ahmed and Shahnaz Ghani (of “BAMBI” child wear outlet since 60’s).
“GAR TU BURA MAANAY” (GTBNM) was hilarious and a parody of many of our customs held during marriages. It was mostly a satire well presented in a formidable style with boxed laughters and sometimes generating a roar of laughter from the viewers of the only network in Pakistan then.
The ongoing golden jubilee year of television in Pakistan…essentially PTV….has many a tales to talk about and remember–from each of it’s several centres which all–produced some most remembered dramas, talk shows and events which remain as infectious as ever. When the private networks will celebrate their golden jubilee—if they reach that point—all people will remember will be advertisements and political battles with no results they were subjected with …every day but never never on Sunday:)
GTBNM…. ran for several weeks and took a break when Aslam Azhar, the Wizard of PTV left for Islamabad on a higher assignment..later becoming the only and ever MD of PTV and later Chairman of PTV and Radio Pakistan. No one has held such combined assignment at Ministry of Information..here in Pakistan. Hail Aslam Azhar! He should be awarded NISHAN e Imtiaz on 26th November, 2014 when (or if) the Ministry of information finds time to celebrate such an important event of this wonderful Nation Pakistan. I am certain to have a million “aye’s” on my recommendation above for Aslam Sahab.
GTBNM…..made a come back in 1970-71 with the same name and this time Neelofer Alim Abbasi, Zeenat Yasmine, Qazi Wajid, Shakeel Chughtai, Khurshid Talat and myself were stock artiste and after a few weeks—my friend the producer Ishrat Ansari told us or rather gave us a surprise that the name of GTBNM has been changed to “Sach Jama Jhoot Battaa Dou” (Truth+Lies/2) which was presented before a live audience at the open air stage of Hotel Metropole. The excitement of East and West separation had gripped the Nation and in order to suitably stage a media war against our neighbours…this stage show turned into a satirical one focusing on our enemy….and indeed it was a success that the live audience was jam packed and the regular telecast was keenly awaited or in today’s nomenclature…the “rating” was very good ( I can never understand this anomaly of the word RATING which appears to be too sacred and pious for some of the networks—:) ha ha ha ha ).
GTBNM….from PTV-Karachi will always remain in the minds and memories of those 50+ who saw that beauty of the sitcom and such sitcom can never ever be produced again…..unless it’s sponsored which is one good thing to mess up something great of the last without risk–:)
Thank you Aslam Azhar Sahab, Mohsin Shirazi (where is he? How is he?) and so fondly the late members of the stock cast; Zafar Masood, Zahoor Ahmed, Mohammad Yusuf remembered. RIP all of them. The then viewers who are around these days do thank you for giving them an entertainment worth every second of watching it.
PTV has carved its name so strongly that it needs to continue with its great deeds well mixed with the achievements of past and the new dawn of current era.
Recently two personalities related to Karachi passed away. The one factor to link them both is a building and the month of February: Hindu Gymkhana.
The British Raj leased a land of 47,000 square yards, for 100 years in 1921, to Hindu Gymkhana. The construction commenced with a fervor and completed in 1925. The architect was Agha Ahmed Hussain who designed the building to a combination of Hindu and Mughal style. Jodhpur stone was used for the construction. It was the first building in Karachi made in the then-popular Neo-Mughal design. It was named Seth Ramgopal Goverdhandas Mohatta Hindu Gymkhana. It served as a club for the Hindu commercial elite that lived in Karachi in the years before the Partition in 1947.
Cricketer Naoomal Jeeomal in the 1930’s, was one of the productions from Karachi Hindu Gymkhana.
Following partition, it became an evacuee property and it got deserted. Over the years of neglect, the building got ruined.
In 1960, a movement was launched by Bhagwandas Chawla, Khubchand Bhatia, and Seth Motandas for the repossession of the Hindu Gymkhana to the Hindu community. It went to cold storage due to the 1965 war with India. Later, the movement restarted, but again got suspended due to the 1971 war.
For a very brief period in the 1970’s, it became a centre for Sindhi Arts and Crafts.
In 1978, almost 60 per cent of its land was given to the Police Department. A further about 6000 square yards were given to the Federal Public Service Commission. Another 3,500 square yards were given to the Aligarh Muslim University. Some 400 square yards of land was allotted to Mr Khan. Consequently, the gymkhana was reduced to and left with only 4,500 square yards of land to itself.
In General Zia ul Haq’s era a decision was made to sell the Hindu Gymkhana. P.K. Shahani raised a move and succeeded in getting the Hindu Gymkhana on the list of heritage sites under the Sindh Heritage Act. In 1984, the regime decided to demolish the building in view of its deteriorating condition. Heritage Foundation saved it. The department of Culture managed to get a plan for its renovation into a Museum of Folk Heritage.
At one point, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society run by Hameed Haroon desired to establish their offices on the site of the Hindu Gymkhana.
In 2005, General Pervez Musharraf handed the building over to National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) on a lease for 30 years. Zia Mohyeddin was the Founder and Chairman of NAPA. The new National Academy of the Performing Arts was opened on 1 February 2005 by President Musharraf.
Four years later, in 2009, the Government of Sindh sent a notice to NAPA to vacate and return the possession of the Hindu Gymkhana. The reason stated was that Napa had violated the lease agreement by illegally commencing the construction of an auditorium on the gymkhana premises which was a violation of the Sindh Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.
Various Hindu bodies, including Shri Ratneshwar Maha Dev approached the High Court in 2014 for getting the Hindu Gymkhana back to the Hindus.
Yet again, the Government of Sindh issued a notice for NAPA in 2018 to vacate Hindu Gymkhana, so that the building may be used as a heritage site. However, this long legal battle has yet to be resolved, and NAPA holds on to the building yet.
Late in 2021, the Supreme Court directed the secretary Heritage Department and the provincial law officer to submit a report with regard to shifting of the NAPA from the Hindu Gymkhana. In addition to that, the academy was also instructed to demolish the auditorium that it had constructed within the premises of the heritage site.
Status quo is maintained, the academy continues with its tenancy of the protected building.
Karachi’s Jews, mostly, belonged to India’s Bene Israel community, besides Bagdadi and Cochin sections. Some came in with British and others via Afghanistan. So much was the influence that one of them, Abraham Reuben, became the first Jew elected to Karachi’s city council. There were about 2500 Jews in Karachi before partition. In 1948, rioters burnt down the Megain Shalome Synagogue of Karachi and attacked some Jews, sparking their migration out of Pakistan.
“Moslem customers of mine,” wrote a Jewish merchant of Karachi, ”have advised me to go, at any rate for a time, to Bombay. But I am staying, and hope that nothing will happen. The last 400 Bene Israel here have now decided to emigrate; the synagogue has been despoiled of almost everything, including the silver ornaments of the Sifre Torah and even the carpets.
“A meeting was held recently to decide whether the synagogue building should be sold, and the proceeds distributed among the Jewish poor. A European Jew who attended the meeting opposed this proposal on the grounds that no synagogue should ever be sold.
But there is little doubt that if all the Jews of Karachi leave the city the Moslem inhabitants of the city will turn the building into a hotel, as they have already done in the case of abandoned Hindu Temples here,” the letter continues.
“Everything depends on the issue of the Palestine question. Should the final decision be favourable to the Arabs, or if the parties come to terms, there seems no reason to think the situation here will deteriorate. If — as we hope — Jewish aspirations in Palestine are fulfilled, then there will be great danger for all of us. The Government has assured the Jews of its protection; but, unhappily, we all know how easily the mob can be swayed by demagogues.”
“To Jews as Jews, we bear no malice,” said one of the Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yet, the Election Commission of Pakistan reported in 2013 that 800 Jewish voters were registered in Pakistan.
Sunny Benjamin John, popularly known as S B John was a noted Pakistani ghazal singer. Born in October 1934, in Karachi to a Christian family. He studied at St Paul’s School. Inspired by his grandfather who was also a singer, S B John made his debut at the Radio Pakistan in 1950. He rose to prominence after the release of his song ” Tu jo nahi ha toh kuch bhi nahi ha” for film savera in 1959. The song was a super hit across the border. S B John, became a household name overnight with his block buster song. This evergreen Pakistani classic was also sung by other singers too, but none of them sang like SB John, the original singer of the song.
During a conference, concerning minorities in Pakistan, more than fifty years ago, S B John placed a harmonium on the rostrum and sang in front of the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and some of his ministers, a patriotic song, penned by Saqi Javed and composed by S B John. “Ae arzz e watan to hi bata, ke teri sada per, kia hum ne kabhi farz se inkar kia ha ” There was a thunderous applause from the audience. The song was a question to a nation which had doubts about the loyalty of its minorities. Bhutto was stunned at the response and during the break time requested him to sing it again.
With the advent of Pakistan Television in 1960, he along with his two sons, Robin John and Donald John, who later became musicians, used to sing Gospel music on Christmas Eve on PTV. His son Glenn John, also a singer, said about his dad that, he was an amazing father, old fashioned but there was a great friend in him. However he was a strict teacher when it came to music and was disciplined about art.
S B John was capable of singing in all genres yet his claim to fame is ghazal singing. He immortalised Ibn e Insha’s ghazal ” Kal chaudhvin ki raat thi ” which also became very popular. He was not associated with any gharana of music and was among those singers of the country who had earned fame, solely through their hard work.
He also sang some romantic ghazals on stage, I searched for his ghazals on Google. While listening to them for the first time In his soothing voice, I was amazed at his richness of expression and the velvet quality in his voice having somewhat resemblance to Talat Mehmood’s voice. Some of the ghazals are .
* Hadse kaya kaya tumheri be- rukhi se ho gaye , sari duniya ke liye hum ajnabi se ho gaye !
* Dekha unhain to apni tabiyat sanbhul gai !
* Raste bund kiye dete ho dewanon ke !
* Sajade e jazbaat mein woh nazuk muqam aya to kia karo gay !
* Mehke gayso rangeen anchal !
* Eik khalish ko hasle umre ra’ wan rehne dia !
I listened to all of them, simply superb, heart touching rendition!
Ranked in the list of the best ghazal singers of Pakistan, he was awarded ‘ Pride of Performance Award ‘ by the President of Pakistan in 2011 for his outstanding services in the field of music . S B John spend most of his life in Karachi as he was more happy in the city where he was born. He was more concerned about the future of his children rather than his own career. With his passing on 5th June 2021, in Karachi. The city lost a talented son .He was the pride of Karachi ! RIP
by Amin H. Karim MD, Class of 1977. October 16 2022
A friendly cricket march was played between the faculty and students of Dow Medical College in the early 1970’s at Karachi Gymkhana. The umpire was late Prof. Shakir Ali Jafry of Department of Biochemistry. It has been more than half century since the above cricket event took place in Karachi. (pun intended!) Many in the photo have passed away. Here is a synopsis of the players as of October 2022. STARTING FROM THE LEFT SITTING: DR. GHAZANFAR: Was a demonstrator in the Department of Medical Jurisprudence or Preventive Medicine. He has passed away. DR. FAKHAR AL KHAIRI passed away; He graduated in 1976; He was the Gymkhana Secretary in DMCSU in 1970’s and once organised a sports day trip to Liaquat Medical College Jamshoro. In 1977-78 he was the RMO in Surgical Unit IV with Prof. Irshad Waheed. He went to Belgium in 1979-80 for his Plastic Surgery training and returned to Pakistan to practice at Taj Medical Complex. In 2010/11 he passed away playing cricket a the Karachi Gymkhana, ironically the same ground as he picture above 35 years before he died. DR. SHAISTA DR. TAJ TABUSSUM: Family Practitioner who has lived in Saudi Arabia, UK and now in Toronto, Canada. PROF. RANA QAMAR MASOOD: Practiced Internal Medicine at Civil Hospital. She is married to Prof. Masood Hameed who was the Vice Chancellor of Dow University of Medical Sciences and both Dr. Rana and him were instrumental in establishing the Dow University Ojha Campus. DR. NAILADR. RUKHSANA YUSUFI DR. SHAKILA QURESHI DR. ZAHIDA DR. QAZI WASIQ is an ophthalmologist practicing in Karachi DR. TARIQ ZAHOOR AALAM: passed away. He worked as a Medical Officer in he Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and was related to General Aslam Baig (Information from Dr. Syed Zafarullah) DR. ANJUM FAZAL is a Dow 1977 grad. He practices General Surgery in Karachi DR. OWAIS SHAFQAT is a Dow 1977 grad. He was the Captain of Dow Cricket team. He practiced Orthopedics in UK and is now retired and lives in London. He was Gymkhana Secretary in 1975. Dr. BABAR HAMEED Dr. SHAKEEL Dr. M. TASEER MUJTABA practices Surgery in Ghana. DR. ABDUS SAMAD CHENGAIZI practiced General Medicine in Quetta and passed away in 2020. DR. MUSHTAQ AHMED lives in Karachi DR. HAROON KHAN, (Dow 1976) ENT Consultant UK and Chairman of IMRA Charity Foundation. He and his team serve Pakistan by implanting free cochlear implants in children born deaf mute. PROF TAJ SOOMRO was an Ophthalmologist. PROF. OMAR KHAN was the Head of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology as well as Police Surgeon of Karachi PROF. ABDUL WAHID passed away. He was a Professor of Anatomy and Principal of Dow Medical College. Prof. Wahid was the Principal from September 30, 1969 to July 14, 1978 (9 years). He took over from late Prof. Mahmud Ali Shah of Ophthalmology and was followed after his retirement by late Prof. Zubaida Aziz of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His son, Dr. Mohammad Ahmad Abdul Wahid , a 1978 Dowite, was a surgeon in Saudi Arabia and now is retired in Houston, Texas. in Saudi Arab PROF. SABIH HAIDER ZAIDI was head of ENT when Prof. Jalisi retired. Currently in UK ABDUL WAHID KATPAR passed away on September 14 2012 at age 87. He was the Provincial Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister. PROF MUSHTAQ HASAN passed away. He was Chief of Medicine and Head of Medical Ward I. DR. AZFAR HUSSAIN graduated Class of 1977 is a Psychologist in Karachi. DR. KHALID KHALIL is a cardiologist in Karachi. PROF. JALISI was an Orolaryngologist. He currently lives in USA. DR. SHUJA HAQDR. FAROOQUI was in the Department of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology PROF. NASEER SHAIKH was a General Surgeon and Director General Health. He was personal physician to Z.A. Bhutto and wrote a book “Precious Memories: Association with Bhuttos” He passed away in 2019. DR. MUGHISUDDIN AHMED practiced Pathology in Saudi Arabia and passed away in Karachi in 2022 DR. FAZLE RAHIM PROF.. SHAKIR JAFRY passed away at a young age. He was Head of Biochemistry Department.
If you have any other information on the people above from personal aquintance or relationship please fill us in. Photo tags and information courtesy of Drs. Shahid Kamal, Najmus Saqib, Owais Shafqat, Anjum Fazal, Sabiha Haq, Prof, Wasim Jafri , Tariq Aslam, Shaista Effendi, Zafarullah Syed, TJ Alam, Taj Tabussum et al. Amin H. Karim MD Class of 1977.
Posting an essay I wrote a few years ago when I visited Karachi
The city has changed so much that it is almost impossible to recognize the few landmarks still there. Others have either been dismantled, or covered with thick sediments of dust and debris that it is impossible to figure out what the original structure was. The old city luckily is not too different from the times when I wandered there, although everything is in a very advanced state of decay with crumbling buildings and precariously hanging balconies, still inhabited by fearless residents. You can still recognise the streets and find your bearings. Starting from Gushan, we drove on Shahra e Faisal Rd towards Saddar and reached the old Hotel Metropole, past the Hockey Stadium and headed for MA Jinnah Road taking a turn towards Arts Council and Bagh e Jinnah. Reached DJ College and took some pictures.
I studied there for two years, starting in 1976. It was one of the two renowned men’s colleges at the time, the other being Adamjee (for women I guess it was St Joseph’s). It was inaugurated in 1882 as Sind Arts College, but in 1887 it was renamed after Munshi Diwan Dayaram Jethmal, a philanthropist and the chief benefactor. I travelled daily for an hour each way from North Nazimabad to Burns Road on route number 2K, in sweltering heat in smoky buses, packed full of sweating, generally irate passengers, to attend lectures, hoping to get enough marks to gain admission in the coveted Dow Medical College, which was only a few hundred yards away. There was a wonderful physics teacher, whose lectures were attended by students from other colleges, as there was no checks on the attendees. The Zoology teacher delivered lectures with mouthful of paan, his chin pointing skywards to keep the liquid ‘peek’ from spilling down the angle of his mouth and an Urdu language teacher, a middle aged, short bearded fellow, who humoured us with anecdotes from his time in England, which he obviously cherished. There were numerous new friendships and friends, some of which I still stay in touch with, others lost but not forgotten.
In June 1976, the boxer Mohammed Ali had a bizarre boxing wrestling contest against Inoki, a martial arts wrestler from Japan, which ended in a draw. One of the Pakistani wrestlers, Akram Pehlwan, younger brother of the famous Bholu, son of Imam Buksh and trained by the legendary Rustam e Hind, Gama Pehlwan, threw a challenge to Inoki, completely out of the blue. To our surprise, Inoki accepted the invitation. It was unbelievable. Carrying the honourable Bholu legacy of his older brother on his shoulders, Akram, or Akki as he was called, had put not only the family’s but the country’s reputation on line. Inoki had become world famous after the Ali contest, whereas Akram’s previous reputation had waned over the years (he was 46 by then) and he was virtually unknown beyond the boundaries of Pakistan. Inoki had another fight the very next day following his fight with Akki, with a Canadian wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh, which was probably ‘fixed’, like most of the heavy weight wrestling contests, but it did demonstrate that both of those wrestlers were at their prime, whereas Akram’s best days were firmly behind him. He looked like a domesticated, flabby ageing uncle, who liked to relax with the family, sharing amusing anecdotes of his foreign adventures when he was young. He hadn’t had a professional fight for years, living off his own and his brother’s reputation, who were all genuinely good wrestlers of their era. Akram himself had quite a few victories to his name, including a win against the Hungarian King Kong. What we didn’t know at the time was that his left shoulder had been damaged a number of years ago and was ‘dislocatable’, a definite ‘no-no’ for a heavyweight wrestler about to take on the finest in the field.
Akram’s training gym was next door to DJ college, called Darus Sehat, which was open to public. He was supposed to be getting training in Martial Arts from Ashraf Tai, a local grandmaster to equip him with techniques of Karate and Judo as Inoki was quite versatile, but whenever we visited the ring, we found Akram lying on a couch, or sat in a chair watching his sons or nephews training in the ring, or giving interviews to the press on how much butter he ate daily, the quantity of milk (gallons) or meat he consumed in preparation for the big match ahead. At other times he was getting his photos taken next to his Dad, the great Imam Buksh, who was 90 at the time, with big bushy mustache. Inoki on the other hand made no such claims and in fact suggested he was on a diet like his beautiful film star wife. One of Akram’s nephews Nasir Bholu, studied in the DJ with us, a handsome tall guy with a few friends in tow, although he hardly attended any lectures. There was no sign of Mr Tai, or any Martial Arts training in the ring. We were filled with a sense of foreboding and apprehension watching an ageing middle aged former wrestler coming out of semi retirement and attempting to add another honour to the list of trophies accumulated by his illustrious family.
On the big day in December 1976, we went to our Uncle’s house to watch the fight, as he had been an athlete in his younger days and knew a thing or two about wrestling. We watched the live transmission on TV with anxiety and nervousness. It was old fashioned Greco-Roman wrestling, no Karate moves except a kick or two by Inoki who appeared to be respectful and hesitant, in case he hurt his older opponent, but even then Akram looked out of sorts. Although all of us were alarmed at the lopsided contest we were witnessing, Uncle assured us that Akram was fooling around to keep people entertained, confusing his opponent and would soon unleash his killer moves to stun the novice Japanese, ending the fight with a comprehensive knock out. We remained unconvinced, as Akram appeared unprepared and unfit, like some of us secretly feared. Soon Inoki had him in an arm lock and Akram was helpless, visibly in pain.. Realising his predicament, his trainers and handlers jumped into the ring to save him from humiliating submission, the fracas ending the match. The sad show was over. Poor Akram was relieved of his misery. His left shoulder had dislocated during the arm lock and he was in agony.
We watched in disbelief, at the premature end of the contest, a technical knockout of Akram. My Dad and especially my Uncle were shocked, as Uncle genuinely expected a late miracle which never materialised. We looked at each other, not sure if it was all over and the man we supported had gone down without much of a resistance. The winner was gracious but the crowd was stunned. Akki had been outmanoeuvred and outclassed. Inoki later accepted Bholu’s request for a rematch, when Akram’s nephew, Jhara 18, fought Inoki 36, a couple of years later in Lahore. It was a more evenly poised match, which ended in a respectable draw, but Inoki kindly lifted his young opponent’s arm to let him salvage his family’s reputation. To be fair, Jhara could have won on points.
Tailpiece: Sadly Jhara started drug abuse soon thereafter and died at the age of 31 from an overdose. Akram also died six years after his fateful fight he should have avoided, at the age of 53, his reputation in tatters, butt of cruel jokes at the time. Many years later, Inoki came back to Pakistan to visit the graves of his erstwhile opponents, whom he remembered fondly and to pay his respect. He was greeted like a hero by Pakistanis, a true sportsman and a gentleman. By then he had also converted to Islam, impressed by the legend of Hussain, changing his name from Antonio to Mohammed Hussain Inoki and becoming a roving ambassador for peace.
July 12, 2022 – Rains come every year, but we live by our conscience every day of our lives. The ‘past and present’ aftermath of monsoons in our dear city has been the same – as we have seen pictures of flashfloods in 1947 and 2022. How unfortunate that since the past 75 years of our independence we have not been able to solve this chronic problem. Why is it so?
The only difference between an inherited Karachi of seven decades ago and the megacity it has become today, is that we have lost faith in our ourselves – the ability to address persistent civic issues that have paralyzed the city from time to time. The monsoon rain is one of the important ones. Sadly, all we do is claim its heritage, reminisce the past and console ourselves by calling our beleaguered hometown, a city of lights, pride, and resilience, etc.! It is far from the truth.
Karachi’s population in 1947 was 470,000 people, in 1957 it was 1.8 million, in 1967 it went up to 3.1 million, in 1977 it was 5.2 million, then in 1987 it climbed to 6.4 million, in 1997 it shot up to 9.1 million, in 2007 it was rose to 11.7 million and in 2017 it reached 16 million. Today, in 2022, it is over-crowded with 22 million inhabitants (approximate estimates). People from all over the country come here for economic sustenance, and together we break laws, evade taxes, and build our own fiefdoms. In this melee, the conscientious and law-abiding citizens become a rarity.
Our city has grown exponentially, literally bursting from its seams, but little has been accomplished in rectifying civic utilities, electricity, gas, water and in particular storm-water drainage. It has expanded in infrastructure developments that have reshaped the city’s contours in size and density and proffered the coffers of the dishonest among us. Good things are visible too but unfortunately dwarfed by the sheer incompetence of identifying and tackling civic urgencies – and therefore, the trauma of facing the reality of a harmless annual feature, the rains!
Imagine, and God forbid, if a disaster like an earthquake (the city is already on the fault lines) or a tsunami (though protected by the mangroves) hit Karachi. What will we do? Make videos, share with friends and revel in the limelight? Or identify, study, and introduce the science of town-planning and management? We must deal with the miseries of the people and let citizens enjoy the monsoon season, it is a gift of nature and a blessing from the Almighty.
(if the author of this narrative reads this, please let us know in comments section so we may give proper credit. Photos are also from various sources, some taken by me Amin H. Karim MD )
Old guys will enjoy reading beautiful history of Hotel Metropole
Hotel Metropole was inaugurated sometime in 1953-54. Founded by Cyrus Faramjee Minwala; but after Beach Luxury which came up in 1948.
Hotel Metropole was the second decent and worthwhile hotel of Karachi City with good cuisine in town. It was in the heart of Karachi. Its strength was basically being in city central area.
The main entrance from the Sindh Club side was glorious. We had midgets (bow nay) on duty at the entrance gate and at the old fashioned grill lift operated manually. Surrounded by the four sides of the hotel was a huge lawn and a stage where I have attended at least 12 Christmas parties…and during the three consecutive ones, my Garden Rod Colony neighbor; Shaukat Aziz was with me. From 1957 to 1968 my father’s eldest sister Princess Mehr Bano Begum of Mamdot after Beach Luxury, stayed in HM as a long staying guest in room no.20 on 2nd floor. She died in this hotel…in 1963.
The top floor of the hotel was all round….fully occupied by the famous German airline LUTHANSA for it’s slip flights crew and offices.
The entrance to the hotel from Services Club side had a huge ballroom where I have attended at least 15 New Year Eve parties during 1968-1980. HM had three Bank branches of ; HBL, Grindlays and MCB. I remained posted in HBlL at HM from 1972 to 1974 July. hM had a huge office of the famous American airline PAN AM (as seen right the front centre view) and HM also had the most famous Chemist shop at the left row of this view right next to the Gerry’s Travels who’s owner died in PIA’s Cairo Aircrash of 1964.
By 70’s the hotel got itself under it’s own management, two of the most reckoned night clubs; in fact one a Discotheque namely “Karachi Discotheque” on the first floor and a night club “SAMAR” which were decorated royally with chamois sofa seat covers and beautiful candle stands with coolest air-conditioning you can feel in Genting Highland, Malaysia or in Salalah, Oman now….. It had a chilling effect and the liquor with imported sifts drinks in cans like coke and pepsi. The food was awesome and so were the people. SAMAR always had a Foreign Band in attendance….with some great numbers like “Yesterday Once More” and “Mardi GRAS” not go forget that French romantic hit Je’Taime for slow dancing. We divided the weekends in two each fir SAMAR and Karachi Discotheque….as both the places had a different mood and ambiance…. SAMAR more of ballroom dancing and light music with live shows and KD with more of Rock n Roll and Twist numbers…..The famous Christian local band IN CROWD were amazing and mesmerizing at the KD and I think in SAMAR also.
KD has great memories of knuckle duster fights arising out of some bullys getting drunk after one or two glasses….and then the flying handle and sometimes knives even but never a gun!!
Hotel Metopole had an AC in every room… I remember the make “Welbilt” and “Westinghouse” which had chilling effect. The first floor had many offices by the 70’s including GULLIVER TRAVELS of Nawab Kaifi husband of our TV Artiste Ghazala Kaifi. The rooms were larger then the ones PC has now…and the view from the Sindh Club side was beautiful… You could see the lush green lawn of Frere Hall even.
Right on the road touching the shop pavement of HM in front of HBL… a man use to showcase some retrievable parts of ships he use to get after the ship were scrapped in HUB chowkidars, Karachi. Ship locks, Helms, Bell….et al were promptly displayed every day scattered on the roof and bonnet of my phoppi’s PREFECT car…..which eventually went to that old man as a gift from the Princess.
During my HBL days…not very long but relatively limited to two years, we had many staff of PIA Shafi Courts Booking and District Sales Office next to Karachi Gymkhana visiting and and us visiting them for distribution of their salaries in cash…. I remember people like Abdullah Jaffery, Mrs. Munaf, Shahida Jaffery (wife of our dear departed TV Artiste Saleem Jaffery.. A Unikarian) and (now) the wife of former Governor SBP Saleem Raza….who became so cooperative that we enjoyed preferred booking on priority through hand written PIA tickets then.
Mr. Malabari, the Chief Accountant at HM gave me special discounts at SAMAR and KD with two times a month free entry/dinner etc for four……..
Entering Hotel Metropole gave you a totally relaxed feelings. I can never forget it’s cupcakes and special large size pastries…. Malabari use to send us at the branch.
The new year parties were a fairytale that still looms o wonderfully in our minds. Of those umpteenth NYP at HM……all had live bands and I can never forget my tuxedo which my father had bought for me from Hong Kong in 1967…..which gave me an extra advantage with a black bow, a golden inside jacket with tux having shinny selvedge on coat collars and trousers sideline that sanding to the music of Ce Sera Sera played by Defenders at Hotel Metropole’s ballroom was ever mesmerizing…..and so was my partner Veronica from PIA who migrated to Perth, Australia after the last dance I had with her in 1969 NYP at HM.
The history has it that the American actress Donna Reed spent two nights at HM when she was flying from London to Bangkok by PAN AM. She had desired to see Frere Hall and Jehangir Kothari Parade in Clifton. The American Embassy took care of her. That was probably in 1964. I saw her at the lobby of HM being received by Happy Minwala’s father…….
Our famous actors of that era like; Sabiha, Santosh, Nayyar Sultana, Bahar, Shamim Ara, Darpan….all use to stay in HM whenever on shoot in Karachi. In fact the famous movie “Saheli” starring Shamim Ara, Darpan and Nayyar Sultana ( also linked as a copy of Indian hit ANDAZ ) also has a song which mentions the glory and modernism of Hotel Metropole by words..sung by Irene Perveen.
The most famous outlet in HM was the Universal TDK/AKAI shop facing the Princely Travels adjacent to the other famous spot AMPIS SHEZAN…which still survives. That was the era of tape recorders and big spools recorded with music or speeches and fixed with two spools to loop the tape passing through a small gadget which carried the head having the system to read the magnetic tape ( just like the strip on your credit/debit visa card which carries your data ) and reproduce whatever recorded through a mic or direct cable system. The best known player one time and for long was AKAI….and I still have over 12 spools in my archived collection from 60’s and 70’s…… Our famous (Fifty-Fifty) TV artiste Adil Wadia use to work for Universal / AKAI. I had many cassettes and spools taped with my favorite songs there. In fact, if you pass between HM and AMPIS SHEZAN…you can still see UNIVERSAL/TDK closed shop with it’s signboard nobody…in this running world of Karachi….has time to take it off.
Another huge attraction to have tea or ice cream in HM’s coffee shop was the adjacent PALACE Cinema which was a small yet most visited cinema hall of Karachi for comedy and slapstick movies—specially the Sunday morning shows at 10 AM ( yeah….people were mad enough …..then that they got up at 8 AM for breakfast with the entire family or joint family and put on the radio to enjoy the special Sunday morning program “Hamid Mian K Yehan” with laughters and proximity…. ). Palace has now become shaadi gharr….the only development seen in this nation of 180 million if we are to talk about what have we achieved past 64 years? We now have shaadi ghars “all over this land”…(sorry Trini Lopez…!)
Hotel Metropole, Karachi has a huge history matching it’s size of plot now in focus of hawks!!!!
The sad part is that they failed to manage the hotel while Avaris did remarkably well due to their experience and service, quality and superb management.
An English actress, who was born in Karachi on 8th June 1931. Her father was a colonel in the Indian Army. She spent most of her schooldays in boarding schools in India. It is said that she attended thirteen different schools in India and was expelled from ten of them. Iberia flight from Malaga bound for London Heathrow crashed in Sussex (England) on 4th November 1967 killing all 37 souls on board. One of those victims was June Thorburn, who was pregnant.