The Karachi Walla was out in the city taking a tour around.
Sevakunj Hostel has been a personal favorite and we make a stop there to peep inside from the locked gate. Abandoned and forgotten now, it bustled with activity in its heydays when resident local and foreign students studying in NED city campus walked its corridors and created a campus like feel around the area.
I have been inside through one of the printing shops on the ground floor but they are closed on a Sunday morning. We decide to take a chance and see if there is any opening on its back side. We drive forward and reach Pakistan Chowk under the shadow of what was British Library once. The building in discussion has a peculiar structure which is unlike any other in near vicinity.
We take a left hoping that it will lead to Sevakunj Street which will take us to the backside of the hostel. Entering the street we find another anomaly for modern day Karachi; a water trough! Looks like that it has been renovated recently and only the plaque seem to have survived.
By the turn of the century, most of the transportation in Karachi was animal drawn. Tramways running the length of Bunder road were drawn by horses and affluent used victoria buggies for moving around. Present day donkey carts were the choice for moving cargo. To sustain the transportation network, municipal administration and philanthropists built several water troughs on primary routes and markets. While the denizen of Karachi still dont show lack of empathy, they certainly don’t match their yesteryear counterparts in aesthetic sense. These water troughs were simple yet elegant pieces of architecture. Most of them were built using gizri stone but varied in style.
The water trough in discussion is perhaps the only light in the dark alley which has multistory constructions on both sides. As we take pictures, I notice residents giving us uneasy looks. We settle back in the car and drive forward on the narrow road. There are bikes parked on both sides and finally we get stuck. A passerby adjusts few bikes to make way for us.
We turn left and slowly drive through the narrow alley. There I notice a stone arch. It again is the only remnant of what must have been a larger compound.
I see Sevakunj hostel facade at the end of the alley and I walk towards it asking my friends to follow me. There are shops on the back sides also but all of them are closed. I walk to main gate and find a barber going about his business. A fragile old man is sitting in the chair and the barber, and old sage himself expertly trims his beard. I ask him if he knows a way in. He tells me that the only way inside is through the printing press on the other side. Deadlock. I know that we won’t be able to get inside today.
I ask him hesitantly if i could photograph him. Karachi is not a tourist city anymore and anyone with a camera is looked at suspiciously. However the barber happily consents to being photographed.
I take few pictures and bid farewell to the barber. It was perhaps the coolest spot to get grooming in Karachi.