Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Goans in Karachi: 1900-1947: Goans in Land Development, Town Planning & Housing

Menin Rodrigues | JULY 29, 2022, 09:34 PM IST

The start of the 20th century was difficult, the first WW (1914), an industrial conflict of nations, was on the cards, and Goans were at the crossroads. The time was right for them to avail of the looming opportunities. The well-off among them thrived, they wanted to look beyond the mundane, while those struggling with life, lived for the day.

The first quarter was significant for those with dreams, of achieving unprecedented goals. Their minds wandered outside the boundaries of a pulsating city, which was concentrated eastwards from the port, down to the Camp area (now Saddar). All businesses, markets, places of worship and schools were located here. Seeing the place to be crowded (pop 136,000) and living conditions tough, three adventurous Goans went wandering on the outskirts of the city, some time in 1906, in search of acquiring land.

Prof Oswin Mascarenhas in his book “The Origin and Evolution of St Lawrence’s Parish” (chapter 2, page 5) writes, “In February 1906 three gentlemen, AN Menezes, an engineer by profession, DF Faria and Caciano Villa Reis visited the piggery in the Garden Quarters which belonged to PJ D’Mello. Menezes learned from D’Mello that a large tract of land adjoining his piggery was for sale, and this information gave him the idea of moving into the area.”

A township was proposed, to develop the area and introduce a scheme for colonisation. Funding to acquire land was difficult but with the acumen of people in the knowhow, made it possible for a group of Goans to start what was later to be known as the ‘Cincinnatus Town’ named after Cincinnatus Fabian D’Abreo, an assistant Collector of Customs. “The colony was named Cincinnatus Town… who was a subscriber for the land and the chief organiser of the scheme, though he neither conceived nor initiated it,” writes Prof Mascarenhas.

By 1926, the dream was realised, a township emerged, and the first five families moved here, A N Menezes, D F Faria, Phillip Neri Pinto, J P dos Remedios and Melito Menezes. The municipality named roads in this area after the developers; the names still survive!

Another housing scheme initiated during this period were the two Catholic Colonies (1 & 2) after land around the Bunder Road extension was acquired by the Karachi Catholic Cooperative Society, an organisation made up of the pioneers. Approximately, 50 plots in the two colonies were leased, and land was sold to Catholics only. It is believed that the Machado and Venantius families were among the first to move here in 1926/27.

As Goans do wherever they go, seek a place of worship for their religious obligation, they were successful in initiating, funding, and building the St Lawrence’s Chapel/Church in 1931 in Cincinnatus Town. It served people living in Cincinnatus Town, Catholic Colony No 1 and the Soldier Bazaar quarters. It was later acceded to the Archdiocese of Karachi as a parish church. The uniquely designed (with a dome) church, dedicated to St Lawrence, will complete 91 years of its existence on August 10, 2022.

As noted in earlier columns, the World War period between 1914-1918 was challenging for most of the people in Karachi, including the hardworking and struggling Goans who lived in single/two-room quarters in the congested parts of the city, Ghari-Khata, Camp and Soldier Bazaar. They toiled relentlessly and lived in inadequate conditions but survived with sheer grit. Theirs are untold stories which form a bulk of what Goans achieved collectively in Karachi (to be shared later in this series of our plotted history).

Next: 1900-1947 – Judiciary, Civil Services and Municipality

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