FEW Karachiites can claim that when they were young they didn?t tag along with their mothers to Bohri Bazaar. It is as familiar and known a place as Delhi?s Chandni Chowk or London?s Trafalgar Square. Perhaps the comparison is not spot-on; still it makes, clear as day, the significance of the bustling market and the streets flanking it.
It is not possible to have enough of Saddar despite many visits. The area is like a multilayered, multimeaning story which never ceases to amaze you. Just when you start thinking that there can?t be more twists and turns in the tale, it springs up a surprise. Sometimes the element of surprise emerges from an already-known, and generally understood, situation. Daudpota Road, Bohri Bazaar and Mochi Gali in Saddar are an example of it.
You can enter the bazaar from as many sides as it is possible in the zone cramped by unruly traffic, with people speeding their 1300cc vehicles into lanes that are as small as the level of their patience. Not that the pedestrians are a tolerant lot: each appears to be in a hurry either to go past the countless shops or buy something from them. In the process, what?s greeted with utter disregard is many a magnificent, old building that this locality is endowed with.
Bohri Bazaar is, and has always been, famous for offering a considerable variety of middle-of-the-line items. Yes, it?s not an uppity site and is mostly frequented by middleclass (or a notch lower) segments of society. The constricted lanes here are mostly canopied with plastic sheets to prevent the sweltering sun (or the occasional rainfall) from bothering potential customers. Naturally once you?re in the thick of things, you won?t be fussed about the beautiful buildings that surround you. Not all of them remain; some of them have been replaced by cement structures and some have been redone beyond recognition.
Coming from Daudpota Road on whose one side you can see Parsi Dar-e-Mehr is more fun. Reason: it?s not the usual route taken to walk into the bazaar. What it does is that it enables you to catch sight of quite a few brilliant works of stonemasonry. The one readily noticeable is Hirji Kaka Building. Initially it seems as if its fa?ade is the only aspect to look at. You move into the narrow gali and find out that it?s a compound which can be better viewed if you manage to discover that it?s a combination of a few structures.
Now is the time to lose yourself in this market up till Mochi Gali. Meander through the crisscrossing lanes and chance upon one lovely piece of architecture after another.
The condition is: don?t get lured by the myriads of for-sale material. Keep the head high and don?t look down.
There?s Nooruddin Ismail Building, one more gem. There?s Mohsin Ali Trust Building, yet another looker. And bang opposite it is Dawoodi Masjid.You can?t get in when it?s prayer time. The salesmen here believe it?s a pre-partition mosque. You don?t believe your eyes, because it?s good-looking but not easily accessible. Squeezed in between buildings, the mosque?s exterior exudes quietude that every holy place does.
Then there is Tahir Ali Asghar Ali Building at one corner, close to which you can spot Khatija Bai Building. Zigzagging will lead you to Dadaghir Building and then turning left to get to the road from where public transport can be caught there?s Harichand Sadumal Building. Now move back a bit, you can?t miss Gopaldas Building (whose interior was destroyed when a bomb exploded in the ?80s). There are plenty more, and it is difficult to keep track of them.
As the name suggests, the majority of shopkeepers in Bohri Bazaar belong to the Bohri community and perhaps when the market was being set up, it was meant for the commercial wellbeing of their fraternity.
Architect Arif Hasan says: ?The layout of the bazaar is pretty old. In 1939 when the British developed the Saddar area this was made as a market which could compete with old city markets. Then it became something that served the British cantonment. It grew into an important retail and business place. I think it was in the 1860s that leasing in this locality took place. When the British army settled in Lines Area there were a great many Hindu cobblers who lived there. They were shifted to this neighbourhood, hence Mochi Gali. By 1952 all the buildings in the region had been erected. In 1958 a dangerous fire engulfed the area causing harm to many structures. Subsequently a rehabilitation plan was made, which is why some of them are reconstruction buildings.
?A majority of the structures are turn-of-the-century constructions with different colonial influences.
You can notice Gothic elements as well as elements borrowed from Italian Renaissance. So it?s a hybrid mix. And one more interesting thing; there was this shop, Adam Somar, whose batashe were a famous delicacy.? Returning from Mochi Gali after visiting Daudpota Road and Bohri Bazaar makes you remember someone?s oft-repeated words, ?Architecture arouses sentiments in man.? Does it?
Written by Peerzada Salman courtesy Daily Dawn Karachi article title “Gems and stones”