GUL Hassan Kalmati.—White Star
GUL Hassan Kalmati.—White Star

KARACHI: Renowned researcher Gul Hassan Kalmati delivered a lecture on ‘Architects of Modern Karachi’ at the Arts Council on Wednesday evening.

Mr Kalmati said his book Karachi Jo Lafani Kirdar is available in English and Sindhi, and its Urdu translation will soon hit the bookstands. In the book he has mentioned 25 pre-partition personalities who played a pivotal role in giving Karachi its modern shape. Volume two of the book, which is in the printing process, carries 30 names.

He said the organiser of the lecture had asked him to speak for one minute on each of the 25 individuals highlighted in the first volume but that would be an injustice to them because they deserved a detailed description. One person merits one lecture; so he would in his talk try to cover as many of them as possible.

The first person that Mr Kalmati chose to speak on was Chakar Khan Kalmati. He said when the British came to the region in 1839 the first man who rebelled against them with his companions was Chakar Khan. In March 1839, a British army officer was killed by Khan. The British followed him and after six months he was arrested and hanged at the same place where he had killed the officer. That place is near Dalmia (Karachi), though he is buried in a different graveyard.

The second man that Mr Kalmati touched upon was Shaheed Kadu Makrani. He was born and brought up in Makran but when the British took over the area, he went to Kathiawar (Gujarat) and began to fight against them. During the struggle there came a time when he had to leave Kathiawar. He reached Karachi where he was arrested and was executed in 1884. A film Jaag Utha Insaan based on his life was also made in which Mohammad Ali played Kadu Makrani’s character. His grave is in Mewashah graveyard.

Writer discusses pre-partition personalities that helped build the city

The third personality that the researcher talked about was Seth Daryanomal. He was the grandson of Bhojumal who in 1729 built a fortress in Karachi. It was after Bhojumal’s arrival in the city that Karachi prospered. When Karachi was in control of the Khan of Kalat (as a result of khoonbaha), Daryanomal and his brother held sway over the city. The Mirs three times attacked Karachi and all those times Daryanomal resisted them successfully. He was the first one to warn everyone about the British’s intentions in the region, saying they would become its rulers.

Then Mr Kalmati talked about Nusserwanji Mehta, father of Jamshed Mehta, who established a series of factories in Karachi, including a tiles factory. He made the people of Karachi realise the importance of progress through industries. He himself would work alongside the labourers in the factories. He was also credited with introducing the concept of having a union in the workplace.

After that the researcher took the name of Tahilram Khemchand, the first, he claimed, elected local president of the municipality. He said Jamshed Mehta wrote that Harchand Rai Vishandas and Tahilram Khemchand were the real builders of Karachi and he (Mehta) merely took their work forward. They were the first ones to have run a campaign for the municipality to have an elected body. So in 1887 the first election took place.

Mr Kalmati said Harchand Rai Vishandas also came up with the idea of laying charcoal roads in Karachi. At the time there were three parks in the city, and by the time his municipality presidency ended the number of parks had increased to 12. He was a selfless man. When Lea Market was built, a suggestion was given that it be named after him because he had done a great deal of work in that area, but Harchand Rai said it should be named after the market’s designer, Measham Lea.

Mr Kalmati followed that piece of information by lauding the efforts of some other notable people such as Ghulamali Chagla, Wadhumal, Kazi Khuda Bakhsh and Jamshed Nusserwanji.

Earlier, Ayoub Shaikh introduced the speaker to the audience.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020