A Visual Treat: Karachi in the 1940s

Posted on February 27, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, History, Society, Travel
14 Comments
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Adil Najam

Links to this historic video from Karachi as it was in the 1940s (not much after 1942 but probably well before 1947) have been floating into my email inbox recently. I now have had nearly a dozen readers suggest that this would make a good post for All Things Pakistan.

I agree. It is a most fascinating and quite rare glimpse into what life was (as seen by a British colonial soldier) back before 1947. It is a remarkable video precisely because it is done by an amateur and not for a newsreel. It is remarkable also for the many thing it shows that one had not seen before. And for all the things that it does not show. Obviously the soldier doing the filming was traveling through Karachi and onwards towards the Middle East. One would love to learn so much more about what he saw and thought of the lands he traveled through. But what little one sees here is itself a treasure trove.

I realize that some of you would have seen this already. If you have, and if you are like me, you might want to see it again and maybe share your reaction and thoughts on this. Those who have not already seen this, I hope you find it as interesting as I have.

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14 responses to “A Visual Treat: Karachi in the 1940s”

  1. Owais Mughal says:

    @ Sanjay

    The phrase at 3:00 is devnagri and not Sindhi. Sindhi is written with Arabic letters.

    The phrase at 4:40 is Sindhi. As you can tell it says Karachi Cantt in Sindhi. Even today several public buildings in Sindh say the name in 3 languages except devnagri has been replaced by Urdu script. e.g the railway stations across Sindh have their names written in English, Urdu and Sindhi on the signboards.

  2. Owais Mughal says:

    Time Stamp 0:18 to 0:21 is Eduljee Dinshaw Dispensary located in Saddar Karachi.

  3. Owais Mughal says:

    Interesting to see people wearing Turkish caps – which were somewhat common in India and then Pak till 60s – in the tram scene (1:32-1:43)

  4. Owais Mughal says:

    Sanjay
    The tram shown in time stamp 1:32 to 1:43 is a authentic Karachi tram. I can see the domed top of Karachi Municipal Corporation in its first scene. I can also cross reference and identify this tram and its serial number 130. You can see the photo of tram # 130 in one of my earlier posts on Karachi Tramway here. At one point in time, it had the route to ‘Saddar’ Karachi.

    http://pakistaniat.com/2007/09/14/karachi-tramway- of-yesteryears/

    Sanjay, I think you are correct that the double-deckered tram coupled to single trailer tram in time stamp 1:44 to 1:51 and with marks of ‘BEST’ is not Karachi tramway. I can see electric conductors on top of it and Karachi never had electric tramway or double-decker tramway in operation.

    I don’t want to make any excuses for the person who created the video but my speculation is that during editing they found a small clip of unknown Indian tramway and put it together with Karachi clips. The double-decker tramway scene (1:44-1:51) is most likely from Bombay.

  5. Owais Mughal says:

    The buildings looked much cleaner and grand in this video. e.g. the Cotton Exchange, Frere Hall, old State Bank etc. That stood out for me.

    One could also see glimpses of old Karachi tramway.

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