KARACHI: The new wooden road, street or area name signboards with the sparkling gold lettering on street corners, intersections and outside some landmark buildings cannot be missed. They are not just noticeable, they are quite a refreshing change from the regular blue, sometimes even wrongly spelt signboards we have been tolerating on our roads so far.
These are the idea of new Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, who wants to put up the signboards all over the city. Mr Shallwani, who has spent six years as a trade diplomat in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has travelled widely in South America from the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru to the deserts of Antofagasta in Chile, and who speaks fluent Spanish and loves classical music of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Argentine tango, is trying to bring Karachi to the level of an international tourist city.
“Where people can walk and explore the magical corners of historic Karachi,” he says. The commissioner office has notified the touristic sections of the city as ‘Downtown’, ‘Old Town’ and ‘Uptown.’
“Karachi has everything [that] any international city can possess, it only needs proper presentation and marketing by the city managers and professionals,” said Mr Shallwani.
“There is a place in Argentina in the province of Patagonia known as Villa La Angostura where all houses, hotels, cottages and signboards are of the same wood art. The idea has been brought to Karachi with a little change of alphabets and placements,” he says, adding that Karachi needs eye-catching signboards to attract local, domestic and international tourism.
There is also a little woodwork shop on one side of the commissioner office grounds where carpenters are busy making the new signboards. Mohammad Nadeem Khan, a carpenter there, says that although they are using teak wood polish on all, the boards are not really made from teak. “We are using Shisham, or Indian rosewood, mango tree or keekar wood mostly,” he says, adding that it is not easy to find wood big enough for the plank sizes they need for making the boards.
Once found and carved according to the need, the boards are polished along with being given a coat of lacquer and hardener to keep them from spoiling. The lettering is all stainless steel though it is coloured gold. Each letter then is strongly screwed into the board with glue poured into the screw holes for extra strength.
The second phase of the project is to place standardised street signs all over Karachi to orient the passersby about their street and road location. “Citizens, pedestrians need to look around and enjoy their walk with beautiful views of parks and gardens around them,” the commissioner says with a smile.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2019