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This week 50 years ago: City hotels cancel marriage parties

This week 50 years ago: City hotels cancel marriage parties

THEY say history repeats itself. This view both has its takers and naysayers. What if someone suggested ‘history remains static’? The idea sounds absurd. Wait a second. If you go through the old newspaper files or any five to six-decades-old set of official records, you will notice that there are certain things in our society that have either not altered at all or have been happening with a negligible difference without any change [in our mindset]. The reference here is to administrative decisions taken by rulers of the past in comparison to decisions that 21stcentury government officials take. Similarities are stark

The month of April in 1967 came as a bit of a shock for hotel owners who used to have marriage ceremonies arranged in the spacious halls and lush-green gardens of their hotels. They would attract, as it usually does, a large number of guests. On April 5, it was reported that about a dozen valima receptions and marriage parties booked in various leading hotels and restaurants of the city for the first week of the month had been cancelled following the imposition of the West Pakistan Economy of Food Order on April 2. The order restricted the number of guests to 25 persons for private functions and 200 in the case of marriage ceremonies and receptions. Imagine the agony that those who had booked the hotels must have gone through. Such austerity measures, for example, orders for having only a single dish at weddings, are taken quite often by Pakistan’s government functionaries.

Another example of how there was no difference in the working conditions for city administrators 50 years back: on April 3, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) admitted that Operation Spring, which it launched in the second week of March to rid the city of flies and mosquitoes and was interrupted by torrential rains, had now been blocked by a lack of funds. Forced to restart the operation anew after every rainfall, the work had consumed all the funds available with the corporation’s health department. The KMC requested higher authorities to provide it with an increased quota of insecticides. Doesn’t that sound like one of today’s stories?

But then, there are things that should not change forever, such as the urs of our Sufi saints. April 3 was the last day of the three-day annual urs of Karachi’s patron saint Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi. Though his followers had started to pour in on day one, the tempo increased on the second day as a much larger gathering of devotees sat enthralled by the qawwali presented at the saint’s shrine on a hillock in Clifton. The qawwali began after Isha prayers and ended before the morning prayers.

Speaking of Clifton, there used to be a fantastic aquarium in the area, not far away from the shrine, made for Karachiites in collaboration with Japanese engineers. On April 3, it was announced that the first-ever locally-bred seahorses would join their Indonesian parents in the main display tank of the aquarium. The four baby seahorses were the only survivors of the 200-odd babies born to the Indonesian pair last mid-winter. Cute is the word that comes to mind. Alas, the aquarium no longer exists.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2017

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