The Goans of Karachi, have a history of their own.
With the East India Company consolidating themselves in India and with the occupation of Sind by Sir Charles Napier in 1843, many Goans did not want to live under the Portuguese and very many wanted to improve their lot. So they moved first to Bombay and later to Karachi.
The first Goans came to Karachi by sea in sail boats, called Dhows. Karachi at the time was a small non-descript town and a one-way stop to the important ports of Bombay and Calcutta.
It is difficult to imagine the difficulties these early settlers had to face in an alien land, where conditions were hard. But by sheer grit and determination and by their adventurous spirit, these early Goan settlers lost little time in improving their prospects for a better life.
The British needed people to work with the British Army and other civil jobs in Karachi. They found the Goans hardworking, loyal, honest and well behaved and easy to manage. The British were, therefore eager to have these pioneers settle in the area. They first hired them in service jobs – as domestics, bearers and cooks and some supplied food. The British subsequently offered them jobs with the British Indian Civil Services – in the Customs, Police, Railways, Telegraphs and other government jobs.
Most of the early Goan settlers in Karachi were single males – they started “chummeries” and moved out, building their own houses and forming their own townships.
Many would get homesick and would make trips to Goa by sea for a holiday and on vacation – they would encourage more people to emigrate to Karachi for better jobs.
One of the main concern of Goans wherever they settled was their religion and the Karachi Goans were no exception. Most who came to Karachi were Roman Catholics. Since there was no church in Karachi at the time, they made sure that one was built. With full support and help of the Irish Fusillers, the Goans started St. Patrick’s chapel, which became a Church and later a Cathedral. The Church, became the center for the whole Catholic community for adults and children and the Goans gave very much of their time in helping in all the Church social and spiritual activities – they organized excellent ‘melas’ and fairs, they organized plays and concerts, sports and picnics, they trained altar boys to serve in the church, opened a catholic library and started a church choir and organized prayer meetings and sodalities for adults and teenagers. They even had an early Sunday morning Konkani mass and choir.
The majority of Goans studied at St. Patrick’s High School, which was the only Catholic School for many years in those early days. Most of the teachers were Goans. It was the Goans of Karachi and St. Patrick’s High School, that gave India and Pakistan their first Cardinals (Cardinal Valerian Gracias and Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro) and also a number of Bishops and Archbishops – (New Delhi, Allahabad, Nagpur, Poona, Calcutta, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad).
Besides in the religious and spiritual – the small community of Karachi Goans excelled in the sports and athletic fields, and produced one of the best sportsmen in the world and on the sub-continent, in hockey, cricket and boxing. St. Patrick’s High School and the Karachi Goan Community also gave the British, Pakistan and India – Judges of the High Court, Army Generals, Cabinet Ministers, Mayors of cities, Hockey and track Olympians and Test Cricketers.
From a miniscule community of Roman Catholic Goans perhaps one of the smallest in the world, can this be matched ?
As the Goan population in Karachi began to grow, they felt that they had to organize themselves and have a place to meet and to hold their own social and sporting events. After working hard, Goans love to have a good time and to enjoy themselves. So in 1886, Goans started the Goan Portuguese Association (GPA) and in 1930 gave a new name to the club – Karachi Goan Association (Karachi Goan Association).
The present Karachi Goan Association building is still to be matched – it is a magnificent structure, and a popular Karachi landmark. The building has an extensive dance hall on the upper floor and is also given out on hire for weddings. There is a spacious stage for concerts, plays and operas. There are billiard and card rooms, table tennis rooms, a well furnish library and a well stocked bar and an outdoor tennis court. The Karachi Goan Association was the pride of the Goans and was the center of many cultural and social events. First class dances and operas all organized by the members of the Karachi Goan Association were held at the hall. During the Christmas Season – ten days of various functions were held at the Cluy – the top bands (all Goan) were in attendance, also held were children concerts, plays and whist drives. For two years during World War II the Karachi Goan Association was requisitioned to the United States Armed Forces, stationed in Karachi and used by them as a Senior Officers Club. The Karachi Goan Association also played host to the Late Duke of Windsor then Prince of Wales and the First Governor of the Province of Sind.
The Karachi Goan Association put on many plays and operettas- all Goan talent – which drew high and appreciative audiences – members of the diplomatic corps, top government officials and prominent and business people. The operettas were on a very high standard. The musicals and operettas which was all Goan included the Gilbert and Sullivan Musicals – the Mikado, the Gondoliers, Trial by Jury, Pirates of Penzance and the HMS Pinafore.
A mile from the Karachi Goan Association building, was the Karachi Goan Association Gymkhana for all outdoor and indoor sporting activities. It is a 30,000 square yard plot, with two tennis courts, an indoor badminton court and a field for cricket, hockey and soccer, which was played regularly on these grounds. Inter village games were held regularly on these grounds. As in any other place if there is more than one Goan there has to another Goan Club. This was an era when the community was divided based on social and professional status and many Goans started separate clubs for themselves and families. In Karachi another Club – The Goan Union was organized – a very well run club with a lot of exceptional talent. Smaller than the Karachi Goan Association, but very successful. Never was there any animosity between these clubs. After all members of both clubs attended the same school and church and prayed and played together.
Given their small size of the population – the Karachi Goans are proud of their achievements and contributed immensely to the new country that was created – Pakistan. They did exceedingly well and held top positions in the various Government and Civil Services and Defense Services. There was a second migration of Goans from India to Karachi, when Pakistan was created. Quite a few of them came to settle in Pakistan and all were successful in their jobs and professions – many became managers in firms and business houses, some opened their hospitals and medical clinics and some became high ranking officers in the Defense Services.
The Ideal Life Assurance – the biggest in Karachi now in Pakistan is purely a Goan institution and spread all over the sub-continent. The only mill in Karachi at the time was the India Flour Mill a Goan enterprise and the only printing press was also a Goan enterprise. Here are the names of some important Goans of Karachi and what they achieved, mind you this is not a complete list.
Cincinnatus Town in Karachi a very large residential development is named after an outstanding Goan leader – Cincinnatus D’Abreo. Hussain D’Silva Town another prominent residential development was started by Jerome D’Silva. Latin Britto Pedro D’Souza, was also a famous Goan land developer in Karachi.
Two Karachi Goans held the rank of Lt. Generals in the British India Army. Frank D’Souza, who was born and was a student in Karachi, became the first Indian to be appointed by the British as a member of the Railway Board of India. The membership to the Board was the preserve of the best. At the time of partition, Jinnah specifically requested Frank D’Souza for his help to set-up the Railway System in Pakistan. Frank agreed, but made one condition, that his home in Pakistan would be de-requisitioned. Jinnah and the Pakistan Government agreed. On completion of his job in Pakistan, Frank returned to India and gave his beautiful house in Karachi to the nuns to be used as a home for the aged. What an excellent man!
As mentioned earlier the first Cardinals of India and Pakistan were from Karachi – Cardinal Valerian Gracias and Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro. Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro (Oxford) a brilliant man was mentioned as a “papable” (possible Pope) in the Time Magazine. After the death of Pope John Paul I, he was appointed by the Pope as Secretary of several Curia Committees in Rome. Even as cardinal, he would use his bicycle on some of his visits, till he was informed by the Inter-nuncio that was not the right way for a cardinal to travel. Charles Lobo, Judge of the Sind High Court and Chairman of the Public Service Commission in Pakistan, was also appointed Pakistan delegate to the United Nations. Edward Raymond was the first Indian to be appointed by the British on the Indian sub-continent to adorn the Bench of the Judicial Commmissioner’s Court in Sind. His son Herman Raymond (Oxford) was one time Chief Prosecutor of Sind and Baluchistan and was also made a Judge of the High Court and was appointed by President Ayub Khan on a Special Judicial Committee to investigate the action of the politicians. Edward Raymond’s eldest son – Leonard Raymond was Archbishop of Allahabad, India, and another son Maurice Raymond (Cambridge University) was the first Pakistani General Manager of the Karachi Port Trust. Joseph D’Mello was appointed Chairman of the Pakistan Railway Board. Sydney Pereira rose to be Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
In the field of sport – Peter Paul Fernandes of Karachi was the first Goan to be selected as a member of the Indian Olympic Hockey team he played in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Old Bombayites will remember PP Fernandes, as he was commonly known, when he would come with the Karachi St. Patrick’s Sports Club hockey Team (all ex-St. Patrick’s school students) or with Karachi Goan Association Team to play in the Aga Khan Hockey Tournament. Mennen Soares represented Pakistan in Badminton, maybe the only Goan to represent a country in Badminton. Phoebe Barboza (nee Dias) the No.1 Women’s Badminton player in Pakistan. Dr. Michael Rodrigues Pakistan’s No. 1 Table Tennis Player. Bertie Gomes was the All India Heavy Weight Boxing Champion .Some of the old-timers say that Lawrie Fernandes from Karachi, who as an outstanding hockey center forward and who played for the All India Telegraphs was better than Dyan Chand, but for some reason was never selected to play for India.
To-day, many Karachi Goans have left their homes in Karachi to settle in other parts of the world, (Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and the USA and in other countries) and they have continued to do well in these countries, naturally so, because of their dedication, loyalty, hard work, education and religious background.
13 Apr 2000