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The Clifton of yore

Updated April 26, 2014


Much digging is to be done to discover the answers to questions such as how old is Clifton? Since when has it been populated? Why is it called Clifton?

However, there is something interesting I can tell you: Charles Napier, Hormas Jee, Roopchand and Bin Qasim used to live right here, in Clifton quite comfortably in a compound.

Sadly, Charles Napier has left the place. However, the other three individuals remain – the road signs are a proof of their occupancy.

As their names suggest, all four of these individuals followed different faiths. Napier is among those who are referred to as the people of the books; a Christian in other words. Hormas Jee is a Zoroastrian. The third figure in history is a Hindu; and the fourth is a Muslim.

Two of these four people share a trait, for lack of a better word. Bin Qasim and Napier, both invaded and conquered Sindh.

The society that we are a part of today does not frown upon the dejection of other religions, rejection of their teachings and justifying the inhumane act of using violence against or murdering their followers by considering it all an act of worthiness. Not only that, but even at the sectarian borders within religions, each one of them considers itself a champion of the particular belief, and ensures that all followers of other contemporary sects in the competition are decreed nothing less than heathen.

Yet, in the humid air of Clifton, loaded with the saltiness of Karachi’s seashores reside the four figures that, historically speaking, would never have been able to coexist peacefully here. But, to our surprise, they do. Let us begin with the formal introduction of these four individuals in the context of Clifton, Karachi.

Hormas Jee’s full name was Sir Jahangir Jee Hormas Jee Kothari. Roopchand is Roopchand, no added niceties to his name, except that he was the first Additional Judicial Commissioner of Sindh in 1930. Voila, the next is our dear own Muhammad Bin Qasim, whom I am certain you all know. For the sake of the formality, one must mention that it was Bin Qasim who bestowed the heathen region of Sindh with the honour of becoming the ‘gateway to Islam’.

Roopchand sahib was the man behind the construction of a park by the seaside at Clifton, while Jahangir Jee Hormas Jee Kothari was the man who made possible the construction of a pathway, usually referred to as a parade, so that people could enjoy the seashore while taking a walk. This parade was called the Lloyd Pier.

How Old is Clifton?

Sir Charles Napier’s Companion (CIE) H. T. Lambrick mentions his superior and the area of Clifton in his book Charles Napier and Sindh (pp. 339-340, Oxford University Press, 1952):

During the hot weather Sir Charles had taken his large family to Clifton, the hill overlooking the Arabian Sea on which a few houses had been built as a health resort. But Lady Napier fell ill; her husband devotedly nursed her for 17 days and nights. His daughter and granddaughter, too, fell severely ill.

Sir Napier was in a worried state due to these domestic affairs and the severity of the business of governance. He declined any further involvement in work until winter and submitted his resignation, although he had been asked to remain the incumbent of his office till the month of September. Had he chosen to describe the matter in a humorous manner, he could have written that I am a man who is troubled because of women and children quite similarly to how a duck is stuck among ducklings. Shall the coming four months be alright? Shall I ever rid myself of the great Indian empire, its needs and its mal-administration?

Let us speak of Hormas Jee now, whose Lloyd Pier is a subject we ought to know something about, since that, too, is an interesting story in itself. Behind every successful man, there is a woman, they say. I say in the background of every great construction in history, there is a woman somewhere smiling over her own success.

Kimi Mer Pura, a Korean woman who spent a long time in Pakistan in the 1960s, writes in her book Aaj Kaa Pakistan, which is a recollection of her time in the land of the pure of those days – a travelogue of sort, on page 59:

The foundation for the Lloyd Pier was laid by a woman. It was the honourable Lady Lloyd. Every afternoon when cold breezes made their way to Karachi, sharing the chill with the seaside sand, Lady Lloyd would be there to receive the sweet messages it carried from oceans far, far away. Sadly, the beautiful woman would have to not be able to stay longer as she had to head back home before dark. It was an uneven and bumpy ride to the seashore, which was not even close enough to the waves.

One day, during another of her brief visits to the seashore, Lady Lloyd met an honourable and wealthy Parsiman whose name was Sir Jahangir Hormas Jee Kothari. They became good friends soon. Kothari sahib used to own a bungalow atop a hill by the seaside. Lady Lloyd and Sir Jahangir would often enjoy tea in the balcony of the beautiful house. The winds here would often be joyfully rapid. One day, during the regular meetings over tea, Lady Lloyd was observing the people enjoying the seashore. She must have thought how the rocky pathway was a nuisance for the feet of these walkers. It was after this that she shared with Sir Jahangir the idea of a pier or a proper track here. She was of the view that such a walking track would be a blessing for the troubled people who visit the place for a walk by the breezy seaside, especially those who cannot afford homes near the area.

The honourable Parsi gentleman agreed with the lady. He was worried how it could all be accomplished. She explained to him that only a pier was needed to be built here that would lead to the waters, adding that any such endeavour will inscribe the gentleman’s name on the blossoming breast of British India’s history. Sir Jahangir agreed to the idea of constructing a pier. However, he took the liberty of naming it after his friend, Lady Lloyd instead of himself. The pier was opened for public on March 23, 1921. Visitors can read the plaque that says Lady Lloyd Pier.

It cost Kothari sahib 3000 Indian rupees to have this pier and the adjoining pavilion constructed; a beautiful gift to the city of Karachi. One can easily claim it is an example of Sir Jahangir’s generosity. Even today people can enjoy a walk up to the waves on the Jodhpuri marble pier.

Another plaque in the area has Roopchand Bilaram’s name inscribed on it. It has already been mentioned that he was the Additional Judicial Commissioner of Sindh in 1930. The plaque, however, does not show any dates.

His grandson Sundar Shivdasani has published an article on Wikipedia, in which he says:

Prior to partition, the park was named after the person who was instrumental in the construction of the park. His name was Roopchand Bilaram. I happen to be the grandson of this person and have in my possession a painting of the park when it was originally built by my grandfather in the early 1900s.

I tried relentlessly to get in touch with Sundar sahib somehow. I wanted to get a picture of the painting at least. Unfortunately, that could not happen.

The plaque for the Kothari Parade can be seen at the beginning of the park. However, the plank that says Roopchand Park is hard to find. It plays hide and seek with visitors while resting quite casually by the tail of the parade.

My friend Hassan Mansoor once wrote in a news story:

On July 22, 2005, the foundation stone for a huge park was laid in Karachi. According to the figures, this was to be the largest park in Pakistan with land stretching as much as 130 acres. The cost of the project was a hefty 500 million rupees. People in Karachi know it as the Bin Qasim Park. However, not many know who Sir Jahangir Hormas Jee and Roopchand Bilaram were.

It was centuries after Imaduddin Muhammad Bin Qasim had conquered Sindh that Sir Jehangir Hormas Jee and Roopchand Bilaram had the park and the parade constructed.

However, the name that survives is that of Muhammad Bin Qasim’s.

-Photos by Akhtar Balouch
-Translated by Ayaz Laghari