ARCHITECTURALLY speaking, it?s an embarrassment of riches in a space of not more than 200 yards ? a magnificent multipurpose structure, a fine hostel, a water trough for horses and a haunting hybrid building, all of which today are either unused or uncared for. Otherwise, thinking twice before entering the area wouldn?t be a bad idea. A crisscross of paths looks like a badly sewn quilt. The stench of human and animal excrement is sickening. Randomly formed garbage dumps are smelly enough to turn stomachs made of castiron. And despite the presence of a City Traffic Section at one end of the bifurcating road, vehicles whiz past each other as if they?re taking part in a race against time.
Though the locality has now assumed a commercial status, which was always the case partially, the residential buildings constructed prior to independence still have a certain ?feel? to them. Sadly, no one ? the authorities concerned or inhabitants ? seems to give a hoot. Having said that? This is Deen Mohammad Wafai Road (formerly Strachan Road). Don?t cover the whole of it. Take just one strip of the thoroughfare that begins from a residential compound for Parsis at Pakistan Chowk to where it meets Frere Road. Parallel to it is Rambagh Road and in between the two historical pathways there are diamonds in the form of stone to be unearthed or better still rediscovered.
It all starts with a building from where the road forks out. It?s a grand piece of architecture, not at all in Renaissance or Mughal mode but definitely a pre-partition occurrence. Its somewhat elliptical front has Sarnagati written on it. Stay put. Don?t be fooled by the bevy of auto-rickshaws (both petrol-run and CNG-powered) parked on its right side or a variety of offices, including a tailor shop, on its ground floor. This work of construction is a mine of information. Why? A local says it was originally British Library. Then it changed its official status and turned into something that can be discussed on some other forum. As far as its architecture goes, it?s a lovely structure which is quite dissimilar to the rest of the pieces found in this zone.
One of the buildings following it is a residential-cum-commercial piece which looks much older than its aforementioned counterpart. This was once a cloth market and was famous among women. Today it is primarily used as a residential block with assorted shops.
Now hold your breath and turn to the other side. It?s a short belt of Rambagh Road. Here you?ll come across a combination of grandeur and desolateness. It would be apt to set off from the corner where the main road on the other side rages like a wounded animal. The last structure is or used to be a hostel, which is believed to be a facility made for the students of D J College. It?s an imposing work of architecture lying vacant for many years. You can look through the iron bars of the main gate and see the shrubbery on the ground. The rooms (or halls) look hollowed from the inside. The broken windows add sadness to the look. And yes, since it?s impossible to miss it, right opposite the hostel (across the road) there?s Isaji Moosaji Building, a marvelous work of stonemasonry, with a host of health clinics promising to help men get rid of their weaknesses.
If you thought that was a difficult sight to behold, return to where you were and have a good look at the building close to the one with shrubbery. Despite the spectacular decorative features (delectable pilasters, delicate balustrades, gorgeous windows), it is a sight that can be made use of as a locale for a horror story. Shattered windowpanes and chipped stones make it the most indescribable building in the neighbourhood. Even if you try and peek through the openings from way down the road, it will give you the creeps.
Walk ahead and reach the City Traffic Section. It is a hut made of stone. Well, it too has tremendous historicity to speak of and has not always been a traffic police office. At the back of the structure there to date remains a small water trough. This was made for animals, particularly horses. Today neither is there any water in it nor horses visit it with glee, despite the fact that there species can be seen all around.
Now look in the direction where Wafai Road leads to D J College. There is a wealth of beautiful examples of stonemasonry, obviously tampered with beyond recognition. They have strange names ranging from Adab Manzil to Abdullah Building. A few boast local motifs and some are constructed in vintage European style.
Architect Noman Ahmed says: ?The buildings in this area have defined proportions and semi-ornate constructions. Longitudinal plots exist here which assign a peculiar profile to the buildings. Street elevations still show uniformity of scale with very few variations.
The average quality new constructions are added to some plots which have jeopardised their architectural quality. A sizable number of buildings are in need of structural repair. Abrupt signage and front hoardings often eclipse interesting architectural features.? ?You?ve mentioned a certain building with elaborate decorations, well in our terminology we call it mixed plate of architectural decorative elements,? says Mr Ahmed.
A rickshaw has just pulled up outside an old building on Strachan Road. A horse trots towards the auto and stops beside it.
The rickshaw driver gets off his vehicle and chases the animal away. The horse disappears into a street lined with old, damaged buildings.