Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Goans in Karachi: 1947-1961: Goans remain in Karachi, become naturalised citizens

Menin Rodrigues | SEPTEMBER 23, 2022, 07:50 PM IST
Goans in Karachi: 1947-1961: Goans remain in Karachi, become naturalised citizens

The partition brought in its wake many uncertainties. It was a tough time for all, the independence euphoria was rampant, the joy, sadness, and a tentative future. Karachi, home to many Goans, was a rousing place to be living in when the lines were drawn – the eyes of the world were on it!

The first ten years of the new country were challenging in as much as giving an opportunity to its citizens to work diligently for the new homeland. While on one hand, good governance was the need of the hour, on the other, prospects for growth for all existing communities in the city were plentiful.

Goans by then were in a settled environment. They were living here for more than one hundred years. They knew the city well, helped develop it, and were at the forefront of key administrative, business, social and professional roles. It was relevant for them to remain where they were planted, nurture their aspirations and bloom! This they did with conviction, dedication, and aplomb.

Soon after partition, there was work to be done. Refugees were pouring into the country and Karachi was no exception – they came in droves. They were shelter-less, hungry and poverty-stricken; many were sick and afflicted with diseases. Goan doctors set up refugee camps and treated them with love and compassion. The municipality played a decisive role, with Dr Orphino de Sa as the Chief Medical Officer of the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC).

The city’s amenities were in place, it was as clean as a whistle; Karachi was the capital of Pakistan. Numerous world leaders, including the late Queen Elizabeth II were visiting the new country as industrialisation was on the anvil. For a new nation, an exciting future was in sight. The British had left behind a well-planned city that bisected the West and the East. Its airport and seaport were critical for trade and commerce. JRD Tata flew the first flight of Tata Air Services (later renamed Air India in 1946) from Karachi to Bombay on October 15, 1932. Numerous pioneering aviators stopped by here for refuelling.

From administering and policing the city, medicine to engineering, education to social welfare, small businesses to entrepreneurial innovation, sports to music and the performing arts, Goans were leading a noticeable and satisfying life. They made good of their eminence and success in the city.

However, at the same time, there were others who saw life and the future from a different perspective, language was one of the cultural barriers. Most Goans were fluent in English and with a dabble of Hindi, whereas, Urdu, the national language was rightly asserting its importance. It was also the mother-tongue of the majority of Christians. Though the judicial, administrative, and business languages to this day, purportedly, continue to be English in both countries, a British legacy, the importance of the national language could not be overlooked by any of the communities.

There were approximately 12,000 Goans living in Karachi in 1961 when the annexation of Goa took place. Most Goans who were holding Portuguese nationalities and/or registration certificates till then, opted to become naturalised citizens of Pakistan, and were to remain in the country for the education of their children born before and after 1947. There were no regrets as Goans continued to prosper in all aspects of life. The 1960s were the best, for the country, city, and its numerous communities, including Goans. There was prosperity all around.

Next: 1947-1970 – Goans in Education and Professional fields

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