KARACHI: On Sunday at 7pm, Burnes Road looked just as busy with its bright-coloured eateries, ear-splitting hustle and bustle and unruly traffic. The piece of information that attracted history buffs and foodies’ attention was that, as per instructions and intentions of the district administration (South), a particular strip of the historic road would be made pedestrian-only.
It did look, though, as something out of the ordinary was about to transpire on Sunday: one side of the road from the Urdu Bazaar street to Fresco Chowk was closed by putting up barriers there — the side from where the traffic flowed towards the chowk. There was a group of valets waiting for cars to come. What cars? Perhaps VIPs were about to arrive. Or perhaps even the general food lovers were expected to set foot in the food street.
Some part of that strip was being (re)carpeted. The flow of vehicles on the other side of the road, where there were no barriers, was the usual. It meant that the implementation on the plan had begun.
A salesman at a restaurant that specialises in juicy, meaty rolls, Mohammad Khan, confirmed that the process of pedestrianisation had started. “It’s good. They’ve arranged for car parking on one side. So the hubbub caused by the noisy traffic will be minimised now. People can park their cars over there and come into the main food street to eat whatever they want to eat ... kebabs, rolls, nihari, biryani … whatever.”
Residents say it’s a good scheme, provided it’s done right
The idea doesn’t seem to have detractors. Even the residents who these days don’t like to give their names to the media agreed that it’s a worthy scheme provided it’s carried out in the true spirit and without any vested interest. Is there a way to gauge that, though?
Nowadays, Burnes Road is known for its scrumptious, mouth-watering desi food. What about its history? Well, when the British held sway in this part of the world, there used to be a certain Dr Burnes who successfully treated Mir Murad Ali Khan — a rais, one of the chiefs in the region — after he had fallen ill. In those days, having a physician was a bit of a medical novelty.
This is one account of how the road got its name. There are other accounts as well, which might not shed a good light on the doctor. What cannot be doubted is the fact that today Burnes Road is Karachi’s most cherished food court, so to say … traffic or no traffic.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021