City Portraits – Manzoor, Brass Musical Instruments Mechanic, Ranchor Lines

Friendly and Light-hearted. The second bit came as a surprise as I expected him to be bitter like most of the craftsmen and artists in the city. Manzoor claimed that he was the only brass music instruments mechanic in Karachi. The Karachi Walla did not know of anyone else. The others in the room did not either.

Manzoor’s family migrated from India to Karachi. He was born and raised in Ranchor Lines neighborhood and lived all his life in the same building block. His father specialized in brass musical instruments and could even manufacture them. He was the primary contact of every band for reliable repairs, a role which got transferred to Manzoor. It was not straightforward though. He mentioned how he felt the same sentiments that most of the band masters in Garden area had shared with me earlier. His father used to take him along to drop repaired instruments near Patel Pada and people used to call them names, call them Mirasi.

“My father was hot-headed. he picked up fights with many because of that. He did not spare me either. He got angry once and hit me in the head. See this cut on my head”, Manzoor laughed and bowed to show us a mark on his head.

Manzoor started learning craft from his father as soon as he could pick the instruments in his hand. He did not go to school. He had a change of heart though when he was thirteen because of Miraasi’s label. He insisted that he would like to become goldsmith’s apprentice. His father took him to his friend who looked after Ruby Jeweller’s workshop on Elphinstone Street. They signed up for the job and started walking back to the bus stop. His father hesitated in his stride and stooped. He asked his son to count number of Jewelry shops. Manzoor could count more than a dozen on tiny stretch of Elphinstone Street.

His father said, “Son become an apprentice and you will be one of several hundred goldsmiths in the city. Learn my trade and you will be indispensable.”. Manzoor never had any doubt on his future profession afterwards.

Manzoor has rendered his services from armed services to private schools and bands since then. He is respected for his skills and flexibility. He has been in a dilemma though. He has been working all alone since his father passed away. He has one son but he has not been willing to take it up as profession. His son is currently enrolled in Psychology course and will graduate in three years.

“I am willing to transfer my craft to anyone who has patience to spend time with me and learn”, he added.

He showed us few instruments which were with him for repairs. He did not play instruments but knew enough to test them as his quality check. He did not have much of an instrument kit and mostly handled all repairs in his tiny workshop. Rarely did he took others’ services for complex jobs as spare parts were hard to come by.

There was a knock on the door and Manzoor excused. It was his son. Approaching 20, he was a skinny kid. He shook hands with us and left. Manzoor told us that his son was kabootar-baaz, a hobby which has been passed on from his father. We climbed the makeshift staircase to the rooftop where there were few improvised cages. We could look around the area from the top. Manzoor reminisced of the days when Ranchor Lines was an area of learned people. That was the only time I saw a hint of despair in his expression.


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Categories: City Portraits

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