Book review: Karachi

Published August 13, 2022

In the days when information is on an average kid’s fingertips, the knowledge is just a click away and book-reading is considered ‘outdated’, a certain book in Urdu about Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan, is the best gift for the kids. Published by Bookgroup and authored by Rumana Husain, the book is better than watching any hurriedly prepared slide show on the web about the City of Lights.

Tracing the history when it was called ‘Kolachi jo Kun’, to the present-day metropolis, the book is a complete guide for kids. Supported with pictures and maps, the 27-page book is as effective as sitting with a history teacher or a family elder. From exploring the limits of the old city to learning about the trade through Kharak Bandar, from discovering the origin of Manghopir to Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine and Shiv Mandir, this book takes you on a journey through time.

It does more service to Karachi than the entire fourth episode of the Ms. Marvel TV series that featured the city prominently. In the TV show, the viewers just saw what Karachiites have been seeing for a long time, but in this book, every monument and landmark is given the importance it deserves.

For how long did Karachi serve as the capital, what was the city like when Pakistan was created, how did the population expand despite mass migration, and which parts were added in the later years, are just some of many questions answered in the book. One would be astonished to know that ‘trams’ used to operate in some parts of the city. In the late 1890s, trams were dragged by horses and for the animals, there used to be large basins installed where they were taken for drinking after long drives.

It would come as a surprise to know that long before the creation of Pakistan, most of the population in Karachi followed the Hindu religion. The trading was handled by Hindus and Parsis, and the Saddar area was the one that was considered the city centre. When the British conquered Sindh in 1838, Karachi became their headquarters. The Britishers upgraded the city and made town halls, clock towers, churches as well as hospitals. The book even has information regarding Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s ancestral home, Wazir Mansion, where we still have lots of stuff used by the founder on display.

Dedicated to Karachi’s first elected mayor, Jamsheed Nussarwanjee Mehta, the book is the quickest way to know the place that is the largest city of Pakistan and its business hub. Some of the information would even surprise parents, who despite living in it for years, are unaware of it. These days when book-reading has become a thing of the past, such a book can help revive the favourite hobby of the past.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 13th, 2022

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