PREAMBLE: Not a long time ago, there was a tiny, clean-as-awhistle and well-planned locality in Karachi. In the first decade of the 20th century it came to be known as Cincinattus Town. The area covered more than a thousand acres of fertile and not-sogreen pieces of land between the Lyari River and the British Cantonment. Some say its development replaced English factories to make way for vegetable cultivation. The zone on the whole was linked to the native city by Lawrence Road and to the Saddar region through Government Garden Road.
Background: According to reliable historical accounts, after World War I, it had become relatively easy for natives to live in close proximity to their British rulers, who had by then mellowed down and were turning into a more accommodating lot, and well-off Indians were allowed to live in the high-status quarters of the city.
This was the time when residential colonies were thought-of and constructed for the locals as cooperative housing societies. The Katrak Parsi Colony (already discussed in these columns) and Cincinattus Town were two of them. As per the Bombay Town Planning Act 1915, the Karachi Municipality engaged town planners and land managers to prepare a scheme for the Garden Quarter, apart from Solider Bazaar and some parts of the Lyari Quarter. The Garden Quarter plan envisaged its eastern suburbs and northern limits for planning.
It was in 1913 that this area began being referred to as the Garden Quarter. The Goan community, who had increased reasonably at the time, leased land from the government in order to make it into a self-reliant residential colony with wide roads, areas for churches and markets. In two years? time, the locality developed considerably and once 40 houses were built they named it Cincinattus Town.Why Cincinattus Town? Good question.
Personality: Cincinattus Fabian D?Abreo was a prominent member of the Goan community. He remained president of the GoaPortuguese Association for more than a decade and rendered many a great service not only to his people but also to society at large. D?Abreo was also responsible for initiating work on a residential neighbourhood for his community, Cincinattus Town, or as they call it now, Garden ka ilaqa.
Cut to 2010. Gone are the days of 40 beautiful stone abodes! The Garden vicinity is nowadays pockmarked with concrete, haphazard, ill-planned and jerrybuilt structures. There are hardly any vestiges of yesteryear. Stone buildings exist here and there. A majority of them have either been razed to the ground or collapsed because of lack of care. The Zoological Garden has a few traces of the past. Saifi Building on Nishtar Road (formerly Lawrence Road) and Hari Building are also a couple of old edifices.
Gol Bangla: But if you wander around the area and ask any resident about the surviving colonial structures, almost all of them will come up with one response: Gol Bangla.
The bungalow is a thing of beauty surrounded by shabbily built and mismanaged concrete buildings. You have to literally zigzag through narrow lanes and alleys to reach Gol Bangla (cylindrical bungalow). It?s like a lotus in a muddy lake, to use a clich?. This striking piece of stonework towers over some of the commercial and residential structures surrounding it but its view gets painfully blocked by modern constructions that appear to be taller than Gol Bangla.
There have been alterations and additions to the building here and there but the arched entrance to this lovely house seems to be in its original, if not unspoiled, condition.The Burma teak staircase that leads to the cramped rooms on first and second floors is strong and stylish. But it?s the roof of the bungalow that has a unique character. It has a canopy-like formation made of wood, metal and glass imparting a distinctive touch to the entire house.
Opinion: One of the residents of the building, a helpful young man who himself has taken many pictures of the place he lives in, Azhar Rauf says: ?As far as we know, the bungalow was made by the British in the middle of the 19th century for Afghan ruler Hashim Khan, hence the name Gol Bangla Baghicha Hashim Khan. The building was encircled by a fruit orchard and beautiful trees. After partition unplanned constructions started and replaced the greenery that was a part of this bungalow.? Architect and conservationist Aneela Naeem says: ?What I?ve seen in the pictures, it looks like an extremely interesting building having a typical colonial style. It has bossed Gizri stone and is not an ornate piece of stonemasonry. What catches the attention is its roof which is quite unique. The metal and glass used in it were kind of a rare constructional phenomenon in the 19th century.
?Though we haven?t started researching on the area yet, I can tell you about Mr Cincinattus a bit. He began his business career in 1878 working for a newspaper and later served in a mercantile office and various government departments. He retired in 1917 from the post of assistant collector customs and salt and deputy shipping master Karachi. He was vice-president of the Karachi Municipality in 192526 and secretary of the Indian Life Assurance. Cincinattus Town was a colony made for the Goan community and was ?built on modern lines on the co-operative town planning system, well laid out and self contained?.? Afterthought: It?s hard to find a Goan in this zone today. Nor is there any vegetation going on. Even Gol Bangla doesn?t belong to the times when Mr Cincinattus was trying to set up a locality, it?s much older. What can be seen, ironically, is ear-splitting noise all around? and it?s not white