Friday, September 29, 2017

City Walk 2: Empress Market to Frere Hall, Karachi

Morning Walk around Saddar, Karachi
After a relatively long monsoon spell and humid weather, Karachi has started seeing nicer mornings. Sunday makes it even better with calmer and broader roads.

So past Sunday morning (September 24th, 2017), we planned a walk around the old town, Saddar, again but with a different route; from Empress Market to Frere Hall via St. Joseph College. With heritage buildings, religious diversity, public parks, and recent renovation the vicinity provides a good wandering opportunity albeit with a few hygiene lapses.

We left home at quarter past six, soon after Fajar, and reached the starting point – after picking another walker from our neighboring block – within half an hour. It was a pleasure drive; cool pollution-free breeze crossing the car windows like never before while the sun rising and peeking through the back mirror. The distracting phone bells only meant that other walkers already made it to the Empress Market’s parking lot, our assembly point.

There, a dozen or more cars were already parked, which was kind of unusual. Asif, who was visiting Karachi from Faisalabad, already found the clue; it was a group of photography students attending their dawn class to make most of the conducive lighting needed for outdoor shooting.

Our first target was Jahangir Park which had been recently rehabilitated by the Sindh government. Unfortunately, the park entrance was closed; either it was too early in the day or may be the public place had yet to be inaugurated waiting for the precious moments from the limited time of an appropriate dignitary!

We continued towards St. Joseph College. Along the way we stopped at the Zoroastrian Temple hoping that the caretaker might allow us to go inside, which he frankly refused. It was not unexpected, as my Zoroastrian acquaintances also told me that no one out of their community is ever allowed inside their religious places. The gentle refusal only reignited my curiosity. Maybe non-Zoroastrians are not pure? Or maybe Zoroastrian rituals are too peculiar for outsiders to handle? There must be a rational. Please do let me know if you are aware of the answer.

The road to St. Joseph College was blocked with containers but luckily there was enough space for pedestrians to cross over. Barriers were placed because of the religious congregation of the Bohra community – another group adding color to Karachi’s religious diversity. Their leader is visiting Karachi these days after so many years and followers from all around the world, including India, flocked to our city. They are most welcome! The community is famous for their mild demeanors and ultra-peaceful nature coupled with shrewd business skills.

On our way, there was a tea stall welcoming the congregation attendees – who were assembling in their traditional attire. I wanted to try their tea, only for the sake of cultural experience, but Asif doubted my intention and pushed me to keep walking instead.

Soon we ended up in front of the picturesque St. Patrick Cathedral, which also houses missionary schools including St. Joseph College, where Urooba (wife) did her higher secondary from.
The church was not open for general visitors due to the Sunday service. The caretaker offered us to give a visit on any other working day. Still it was good enough for a group photograph from the outside.

In front of the Cathedral, Urdu alphabets are painted to describe Karachi’s landmarks and traits. Reading through, we walked to the picturesque Flag Staff House (Quaid-e-Azam Residency) with a breakfast stopover at a roadside chai-wala.

In last half an hour, we had a glimpse of three of the distinctive religious groups Karachi proudly house; Zoroastrians, Bohras, and Christians. The metropolitan embraces people from all ethnicities and beliefs and respects their rituals – open or closed. With these feelings, we soon reached Jinnah’s elaborate residency where we concluded the walk after a brief guided tour of the inside of the mansion.

Right across the road, I noticed a traffic police contingent busy in collecting bribes. That was not an unusual site for a person like me who has lived all his life in Karachi. However, a ranger recruit deployed outside the Quaid-e-Azam museum was observing the policemen rather keenly. I asked him about the daylight crime. He was like “Yeh Pakistan hey”!

Empress Market Karachi

Use of Wood in an Old Saddar Building

Illegal intrusion in Karachi's Zoroastrian Temple might land you in the court!
Alif Bay of Karachi

Dumpers Required to Clean the Mess!

A Calm Sunday Morning on an Otherwise Busy Junction 

A Heritage Structure in need of Rehabilitation

A More Usual Sight around Saddar

This Beautiful Building Still Surviving the Urban Chaos
Mikael Enjoys the Cart Ride

Church Building

Going Towards Frere Hall

Cyclist in Karachi - An Unusual Sight. Traffic Police Collecting Bribes - Usual. 

Jinnah's Residency Turned into a Museum

Avari Tower Junction

Fatima Jinnah stayed in his brother's house until Genral Ayyub ousted her

Mikael Giving it a try
Group of Walker in front of St. Patrick Cathederal
The Walk Ended at Quaid-e-Azam's Residency