AS I read about the revival of KCR my mind races back to the early 60s when there was no bridge over the Lyari River to connect Azizabad with Gulshan-i-Iqbal. For us, the Karachi University students living in North Nazimabad and Nazimabad numbers 3 and 4, it was quite a time-wasting exercise to take a bus to Gurumandir and then board the one run by the University management to drop us at the newly commissioned sprawling campus.
One student who gave me company on the train in the morning was good looking student of Political Science Department Mohsin Ali, who later made a name for himself as the producer of quite a few highly successful plays and serials for PTV. He lived in Nazimabad No 3 right in front of a huge empty plot, which was destined to house Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
We converged at what still exists as North Nazimabad station. The train was not even one quarter full and Mohsin’s one complaint was that there were no fellow passengers belonging to the opposite sex in any compartment.
The train that suited us in the morning left the North Nazimabad station at 7.30am and dropped us at the Karachi Central station 10 minutes later after making a two-minute stopover at the Liaquatabad station.
Karachi Central station had vast empty space around its premises. It was supposed to be modelled on Bombay Central, where the BB&CI (renamed Western Railway in the mid-50s) trains coming from western India terminated. Karachi city and cantonment stations, located in congested areas, posed problems for passengers. By the way, the congestion is worse these days. What happened to that enormous space is nobody’s guess.
Back to our trip, we got down at the aforesaid station and walked on a half km metalled road that terminated on the University Road. We flagged at the bus that was speeding on its way to the Campus and sure enough it stopped for the students, not more than four or five any morning, to take them to their destination.
Now the question: why didn’t we get down at the so-called Karachi University Station? To begin with, it was more than a kilometre from the point where we boarded the bus and to make things worse there was no road link, not even what they call dirt track. The area resembled the ground captured by the cameras fitted on the spaceship Perseverance, which landed on the surface of Mars earlier this year on Feb 18.
Mohsin and I disembarked at the Karachi University Station only once and walked grudgingly towards the University Road as our painstakingly polished leather shoes collected dust. By the way, I have retained the pink-coloured ticket so far and would gladly exchange it with three or four Rs 5,000 currency notes if I run into a collector of fossils. The proceeds will be donated to a charity in the field of education.
Unlike the newly launched KCR which boasts of a separate colour scheme for its carriages, the ones that we travelled in had the same yellow and green combination which the inter-city trains were draped in. In those days ‘PWR’ (Pakistan Western Railway) was painted on every carriage. That was well before Pakistan’s eastern wing was clipped and PER became BR (Bangladesh Railway).
The newly-introduced KCR boasts of equality unlike the earlier one which had Inter Class and Third Class. So it has only one class. Also it doesn’t have separate compartments for ladies. Had it been so my feminist friends would have revolted. The only way to have satisfied them was to have had separate compartments for gents. Not a bad idea, isn’t it?
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021