KARACHI, May 25: The historic architectural monuments at Clifton, gifted by the Parsi philanthropists to the Karachiites in the early part of the last century, are gradually fading.
They are reducing to rubble owing to criminal negligence by government agencies and carelessness by the visitors.
The cluster of monuments comprises Jehangir Kothari Parade, Lady Lloyd Pier, Jehangir Kothari Pavilion and his bungalow, and a bandstand.
These structures are a lasting memory to philanthropists, most important of them all, Sir Jehangir Kothari, who had gifted huge piece of land and donated generously to develop a recreational spot for Karachiites.
Stones are either being removed or stolen by anti-social elements from sides of the raised platform on which the imposing bandstand had been constructed. Erosion, probably caused by the strong sea breeze, also played a major role in this regard, and the government agencies concerned failed to keep this monument in proper shape.
Sloped sides of the pavilion are also showing signs of decay and are in an immediate need of conservation. Some of the stone steps, leading to the raised bandstand, have also broken down while stones from the beautiful ornamental parapet, on the bandstand and along the parade had broken down and lay scattered in the debris on the parade.
The unruly visitors, too, have ravaged the monuments as they are now spitting paan on the beautifully-constructed walls of the stone monument and marble plaques on which the names of the kind people, who had donated these monuments to the residents of the city, are written. Numerous vendors park their push-carts and store their additional supplies in the pavilions, along the delicately-built decorative walls and the marble plaques, hiding their beauty and making them jugly in the process.
The beautiful Jodhpur sandstone Chhatar, which has been used to construct the monuments, has weathered over many decades and got damaged by strong air currents coming from the sea. Many of the decorative solid iron lampposts that had been erected along the walkways have broken down and are yet to be repaired. Many addicts are living under the walkway, the bridge-like structure, which descends from the pavilion on the hill towards the sea.
These recreational monuments were planned by the civic-minded officials serving the civic agency for the recreation-starved citizens of the Karachi during the early part of the last century. Little did they or the philanthropists realize that the officials and the citizens alike that were to follow them in the next century might not be as committed to the city as much they themselves were.
The Karachi Municipality’s chief officer, Misham Lee, prepared a scheme in 1917 that in the extreme northwest of the hill at Clifton a promenade and terraces along with an overhead covering be built so that people could have a good view of the harbour and Manora from the high hill clearly from here. In addition, a parking space was kept for the horse-driven carriages, probably the favourite vehicles of the elite and the commoners, at that time, near the concrete walkway.
But to implement this scheme, it was necessary to take over the existing bungalow and 12,000 square yards of surrounding land that was owned by Jehangir Kothari. When the municipality approached him, he reviewed the scheme in detail, and once satisfied, gave his enthusiastic support.
Showing benevolence, Jehangir Kothari gave his bungalow along with the land valued at Rs. 125,000 for the recreational scheme and the municipality resolved to name the promenade as “The Jehangir Kothari Parade.”
A plaque at the entrance says: “The magnificence of Jehangir H. Kothari, OBE, by the gift of this valuable site and adjoining plot of land, made possible the creation of this Parade.” Designed by E. B. Hoare, the Parade and Pier were built in 1919 - 1923.”
Placed parallel to the sea, the Jehangir Kothari Parade consists of a single storey pavilion located at the left end of the pier and the walkway. The elegant rectangular open pavilion has the five-arched facade facing the sea on one side and the road on the other. It carries projecting Chajja and a flat roof. The view from the sea from the shelter of this pavilion is breathtaking.
The walkway is defined by carved balustrading using the Jodhpur sandstone coping and extends on either side of the Pier to a total length of over 600 feet. While the Jehangir Kothari Pavilion is totally constructed by the pink Jodhpur sandstone, a combination of pink Jodhpur sandstone and a buff coloured Gizri sandstone, with good effect is used in the Parade, Pavilion and the walkway. Steps from the promenade lead down to an enormous park now renamed as Bagh Ibn-i-Qasim (originally known as Rupchand Bilaram Park).
Another important part of the historic monuments is a pier, known as Lady Lloyd Pier, named after Lady Lloyd, wife of the then Bombay Governor George Ambrose Lloyd. It was Lady Lloyd who during a visit to Clifton was captivated by the Karachi’s sea breeze and had expressed the desire to be able to walk to the sea, and thus became the motivating force behind the project.
The pier is designed at right angle to the parade walkway and extends over 1,200 feet towards the sea. A walk on the gradually descending pier, in the evening as one proceeds towards the sea an unforgettable experience.
Plaques at the beginning of the pier say: “Lady Lloyd Pier. Inspired by Her Excellency the Hon Lady Lloyd this promenade was constructed at a cost of Rs 300,000 and donated to the public of Karachi by Jehangir Kothari, OBE, to whose generosity and public spirit this gift is due.”
Bandstand: Though constructed in the last, the most important of the monuments at Clifton is the bandstand, which dominates environment and allows one to enjoy a breathtaking view of the sea and surroundings.
Constructed by donations from another Parsi philanthropist, Sir Kavasji Katrak, the bandstand with its striking cupola of Pink Jodhpur stone, Chhatar, is located at the western end of the cluster of the monuments.
Four corners of the podium are defined by tall pillars topped by carved motifs, while carved balustrading and battered podium walls of Gizri sandstone complete the ensemble.
It probably is due to the poor handling and showing disrespect and contempt to the historical monuments that were gifted to the citizens of the city by the philanthropists during the last century, that one does not see many philanthropists, except probably for a few exemption, coming forward and doing something good for the benefit of the residents of the city!