Ratan Talao. Always found the name fascinating. Phonetically soothing. Always been confused with the directions and forgot about it all until found this brilliant piece on it by Akhtar Balouch. I geared up for Sunday exploration after discussing it with friend who asked his colleague to show me the directions though someone has kindly marked it on Google map as well.
We drove to the Gurdwara on a Sunday morning. On temple road, approx a 100 meter before the Gurdwara was a disputed temple which has been locked down for past 24 years, according to a gentleman buying halwa puri from a shop right next door to the temple. We drove further and parked our car outside Nabi Bagh School. The place was quiet although we found few children playing cricket inside. From the entrance, you would not get a clue that it hides a pre-partition Gurdwara, or whatever of it remains. The architect has not left much space while designing the school and you have to walk towards either end of the school to find a way to the back. Gurdwara will be in your face. Desolate and Plundered. The side facade may give you an impression that it may be in reasonable condition but when you reach the front door, you could see that its practically inhabitable. The roof is gone, the walls still survive but plaster has fallen off and arches look shaky. The floor has disappeared in shrubs and debris, but I could see a glimpse of famous Belgian tiles which adorned floors of many a worthy landmarks. There was a blackboard in the central hall of the Gurdwara which indicated that it must have been used as a Classroom. I also found the imprint made of stone which Mr. Akhtar has talked about in his article. It was a sacred symbol of Sikhs and was embossed on all four sides of the building.
Karachi was largely peaceful during the partition but reports suggest that many Sikhs were martyred inside Gurdwara Ratan Talao during 1947. Sikhs put the number as high as 250. Apart from Ratan Talao, there is another gurdwara in Narain Pura, Ranchor Line and one in Manora.
Khakem Budhan, Mere muun mein khaak, but Ratan Talao Gurdwara shall be no more in few years. Even if it survives land encroachment by the school or the mosque, it still may disappear due to it’s natural death. But Sikh community has not forgotten about it all. In 2005, Some elders started worshiping here but it did not continue for long due to the objection by education department. Sikh Naujawan Sabah Pakistan (SNSP) has been trying to get the property back for many years so that it could be restored properly and function as a center point for Sikh community in Karachi.