THE Lalazar Colony is a small area in Karachi between the Chinna Creek and the busy Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan Road, which was formerly the Queens Road. I may be biased when I express my love for the area because my family and I have lived there since 1964 and continue to do so. However, I am sure that any objective person with some understanding of urban spaces would confirm that the colony is one of the most beautiful areas in the city.
There is a series of low-rise houses built in the 1950s in the mid-century modern style of architecture with large rooms, high ceilings, spacious gardens and massive trees.
The area remains an oasis of style, grace and tranquillity in an increasingly chaotic city despite the fact that it is at a stone’s throw from the main financial centre on I.I. Chundrigar Road and the Keamari Port.
Many of the houses were built by the well-to-do families, such as the Valikas and the Tapals, while others were built by government and semi-government institutions, such as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) to provide accommodation to their staff.
Facing the creek were the Karachi Club, the Boat Club and, the jewel in the crown, the residence of the chairman of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) with its award-winning gardens.
In any other country, such an area would have been declared as being of ‘historic interest’ and the buildings, the trees and the gardens would have been listed and protected. In Pakistan, things work rather differently.
Over the years, several of the old residents of the area have sold their houses. With a heavy heart, I have seen these beautiful buildings abandoned or brought down by the new owners and property developers, with the old structures bulldozed, the trees cut down and concrete poured over the gardens to make parking space for vehicles.
Luckily, the state institutions, such as the SBP and the SLIC, resisted the trend, but the former seems to have broken ranks now.
It is currently tearing down a complex of beautiful old buildings it owns there. Replacing them would probably be some awful glass-and-cement eyesore. It will be a building that will be one of the many in the city; not a building with a history behind it. It will need lighting and air-conditioning round the clock to make it habitable unlike the old buildings that relied on Karachi’s sea breeze and cross-ventilation.
It is extremely disappointing to see the SBP doing what it is doing. What a pity!
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021