After partition, many Parsi families resided in Sukkur. Creating a piece of history in the form of a Parsi compound
Article by Sarfaraz Memon | Tribune Pakistan
Sometime in the recent past, there used to be a few Zorastrian families who used to live in a huge compound situated just opposite the Saint Savior’s School at Wallace Road. This particular compound was most commonly known as the Pasri Compound.
Constructed in the year 1923, the compound comprises a Mama Parsi School, Khan Bahadur Marker Parsi Dharamshala, their place of worship called a Fire Temple, family residences, servant quarters and huge play area. The building was constructed by a renowned trader Kekobad Ardeshir Marker in 1923, whose son Jamsheed Marker served as the permanent diplomat of Pakistan in the UNO for more than 40 years. Though historical records are unclear on who used to live in this huge compound soon after its construction, but the residents of Sukkur still remember that after partition, two Parsi brothers named Jahangir Caranjee and Homy Caranjee along with their families used to live in the compound.
One of the elderly residents of Sukkur Parkash Lal remembers both the Parsi brothers, one used to serve at the National Bank of Pakistan and the other was in Wapda. “Their children used to study in the Saint Mary’s High School,” he went on to say. “I don’t know much about them, because they never used to mix with other people and were happy in their own world.”
As far as he remembers, both the Parsi families bid farewell to Sukkur in the early 1970s and never looked back. Yet another resident of Sukkur Mohammad Qasim, who runs a Pan shop in Mochi Bazar says, Jahangir Caranjee used to visit his shop daily because he loved to chew pan. “Though he was a very polite person, he always avoided meeting people,” Qasim says adding, “as far as I remember, both the families left Sukkur either in late 1970s or early 1980s.”
When I tried to visit the compound, a man, who later introduced himself as Habib Ahmed refused to allow me in, saying that the owners doesn’t like strangers to visit their property. However, when I told him that I was merely only there to write a story about it because it is part of Sukkur’s history, only then did he allow me in.
While visiting the historical compound, it learned that the building was in a dilapated state and needed immediate attention of the owners to refurbish it. Most of the portion of the building was locked and therefore could not be visited, but one thing was evident from the look of the building that it must be a great scene to witness. A beautiful and scenic brick masonry structure, with pane doors and windows still intact, but most of the glasses in the windows were broken. With the passage of time and braving thick and thin of the weather and above all neglect of the owners has turned the whole structure into a haunted house.
Similar is the situation of the servant quarters, of which some have been occupied by families, which claim to have served the owners of the compound. Habib Ahmed claims that his late father Bashir Ahmed used to serve as a gardener and after his death Habib Ahmed started to work as the gardener at the property. Narrating his part of the story, Habib Ahmed said that he has been working as a gardener for last more than 40 years and not only tries to maintain the upkeep of the building, but has also saved it from the ‘Qabza Mafia’ successfully.
Replying to a question, Habib Ahmed said that apart from him, five more families are residing inside the compound. On another question about how and why these families are living inside the compound, he said that they are not new, but are living here for a long time and claim to have served the owners of the compound in one way or the other.
According to him, nobody except a woman named Roshan Baroshaw visits the compound once in two to three years and always instructs him to get the possession vacated from the other families. “But you know it is not possible for me to get the possession vacated, because they have served the owners like me,” he says adding, “therefore I am living here with my head down.”
Habib Ahmed runs a small nursery right inside the main gate of the compound, which according to him, is his only source of income. When asked how much the owners pay him as salary, he laughed and said, “not a single penny.” Sharing his sacrifices of the safety of the compound, he claimed that, he not only is safeguards the interests of the owners, but also pays property tax and utility bills on his own.
What if the owners ask you to vacate the property, I asked him. “I have no other place to go, as I was born here and will die here,” he said.
Sharing the memories of the compound after taking over as the gardener at the age of 20, he said that more than three families used to live inside the compound, while one priest also used to live here. During my 40-year service, I have seen two priests namely Dastagir Jee and Dinshaw Jee, but they too left Sukkur when the families moved to Karachi. Now only Madam Roshan Baroshaw is left, who visit Sukkur after every two three years. This correspondent requested him to give contact number of Madam Roshan, but he plainly refused saying, I am not allowed to give her number to anyone.
Habib Ahmed and his brothers are living inside the compound and everyone is responsible for paying their own utility bills. Habib claims to be a custodian of the huge compound saying, whenever Madam Roshan visits the compound, she always expresses her displeasure on the families other than Habib Ahmed’s.
However, Habib Ahmed keeps a hawkish eye on the safety of the compound and never even allows anyone to install wheel barrow by the compound wall of the compound. The sixty-year-old gardener is proud to have served the owners for so many decades. “Had there been a greedy person in my place, he would have usurped the property long ago,” he claims. His younger brother Nadeem runs a push cart of vegetables outside the compound wall and he too lives inside the compound with his family. In short Habib Ahmed is the only guardian of the huge property and vows to keep it safe from the local dwellers till his last breath.
Several attempts were made to contact Madam Roshan for an interview for this article, however all of them were in vain and she did not get back to this correspondent.