Wednesday, August 16, 2017

OASIS IN AN ISLAND



OASIS IN AN ISLAND 


If you consider Rawalpindi Park area an Island of the elite of Rawalpindi, housing the General’s colony, Army House, GOR –I   and the area of 22 ACRES within this island there is an Oasis called the Murree Brewery (MB) Estate on park road.

For an outsider M.B estate gives a defiant mysterious esoteric bearing & demeanor but this M.B is one of the oldest companies of South Asia with a very rich history corporate diversity and archival heritage. 

The history of the company dates back to the year 1860, when there was dearth of supply of good beer to the British troops in Northern India.

The imported beer being costly in those days, hence Pir Panjal Hills Brewery was setup in 1860, and Quetta distillery was part of this setup till 1947.

This GHORA GALI brewery was built in the Gothic style of architecture was vandalized during the riots of independence of Pakistan in 1947, while the brewery in Quetta was destroyed in 1935 because of the great Quetta earthquake.

In the formative years the Brewery was managed by the family of Edward Dyer, father of Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh massacre fame. He was the man who had supervised the Pir Panjal Brewery construction in the beginning and later on was managed by George Duncun who remained the general manager of Murree Brewery for 40 years.


Murree Brewery is one of the oldest public companies of the South Asia and was registered on the Kolkata Stock Exchange on 18th August 1884 and its shares were traded as early as 1885 and is now the oldest continuing industrial enterprise of Pakistan. 

Great progress was made by Murree Brewery Company LTD, after its formation in the year 1860, and the unprecedented demand for their famous ales and stout over a greatly increasing area of the Northern India, encouraged the directors to erect a another branch brewery at Rawalpindi about thirty years later.

In the 1940’s, the controlling shares or interests in the brewery were obtained by Peshton Dhanji Bandhara, who used to run a liquor business in Lahore prior to the independence of Pakistan by the name of D.P Edulji & Company (Pvt.) Limited which still has its offices in No. 10 commercial building Shahra – e – Quaid Azam Lahore.

P.D Bhandara at the time of independence had to run from pillar to post in order to purchase the shares of MB from Hindu’s, Sikh’s and British Shareholders. He was given a very tough time by Sayid Saigol who also was interested in hostile takeover of Murree Brewery but P.D Bhandara hired the tops lawyers of that time Sir Abdul Rashid Mr.  M.  Amwar and Justice Shabir Ahmed who won the court cases for P.D Bhandara which got him the hold of the control of the company. 


Peshton Dhanji Bandhara was succeeded by his son, late M.P. Bandhara who later on carried on the family business and now it is being run by a grandson, Mr. Isphanyar Bandhara who is also a minority MNA in the N.A of Pakistan.

Mr. M.P Bhandara early in 1960 at a young age of 21 years diversified the company in to downstream activity by opening up associated TOPS and Murree Glass in 1969.

Keeping in tradition for new avenues M.B in 2008 went for value addition and induction of new technology where R&D became foremost followed by Refinement & Consolidation in glass bottling technology.

TOPS started its operation from Chowburji in Lahore in 1990, but later on shifted to Kot Lakpat on 31st July 1993 but the title deed was transferred on Murree Brewery’s name in 1996 and second plant started in Rawalpindi in 1995 and later on shifted to Hattar in 2004.
Murree Glass plant was imported from Sweden in 1974, first installed at Rawalpindi and later on shifted to Hattar in 1993.
Murree sparklets was purchased by M.P Bhandara from Hashoo Group on 01st April 2011.


 
Many of the Pindite’s may be unaware that the Army house was gifted by M.P Bhandara in 1982 which was at that time named as Park Lodge. Park Lodge a majestic residential property which was purchased by M.B from Mrs. H. Whimper in 1888.

It was the principal residence and the head office of the company till 1959 until it was taken over by Government of Pakistan to house the office of the Prime minister of Pakistan. Sums of Rs. 2.80 Lakhs were paid as lease money for the camp office of Army Chief. This park lodge also used to house the HQ of Anti Narcotics Force, Banazir Bhutto later on made it in to SINDH HOUSE for a short time. 

It remained an office of the head of State of Pakistan from 1960 till 2008.

Some very interesting folktales about Murree Brewery is that there was an underground tunnel linking the camp office with M.B estate but on my further sleuthing and investigations of the cellars I did find plastered and closed openings in the cellar hence I could not come to any logical conclusion. 

 

Another historical point of interest which very few Pindite’s are unaware of that a narrow gauge railway track used to come to the Military Diary farms and terminated at Murree Brewery bringing the supplies to Military Diary Farm and Murree Brewery.
As the General’s colony was being built this line was subject to scuttling hence the small gauge locomotives ceased to come to its termination point in the head office of Murree Brewery. 

Apart from its corporate diversity M.B is also a very socially conscious corporate citizen and is funding the CSR training institute where the building and Utilities are maintained by M.B.

The Bhandara Foundation with its head quarters in Lahore is headed by Justice Nassira Iqbal and Justice Amer Raza as its trustee and are looking after the poor and down trodden section of the society.
The Murree Brewery Polo Cup and Golf Cup which is an important fixed event in the Rawalpindi Garrison’s Annual Calendar is sponsored by M.B since 1904, under the auspices of the Rawalpindi Polo Club. In spring each year the top polo teams of Pakistan compete and vie for the honor of this cup and the cup is held for safe custody by the president of Rawalpindi Polo Club housed in the Race Course Ground.

 

The present management of M.B wants to take the company to the pinnacle and zenith for the maximum return to the shareholders but is bogged down by multiple problems like high Utility bills, disruption of gas and Electricity supply and dual taxation.
Such step motherly treatment is being meted out to the company that the company is under litigation with the taxation authorities in various courts of law which are Sub judice.
Now a day’s Murree Brewery is a thriving public limited company where the main share holding rests with the Bhandara family and there are about 1600 share holders including this scribe.

The present success story of Murree Brewery is not a bed of roses but a roller coaster ride through ages having survived prohibition and liquor ban by the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Secondly it had to face shutting down of its operation for 26 days because of the vested interests in collaboration and connivance with the local and political authorities who instigated the worker’s to strike taking the protective umbrella of the environmental protection laws.

Despite all these obstacles, hurdles, impediments and adverse scenario M.B has been able to keep its head well above the waters and has come of age. It is now amongst the top 25 award winning companies of the Pakistan Stock Exchange contributing a handsome amount to the national ex-chequer and giving the maximum return to its shareholders.


BABUR ZAHIRUDDIN














BOTAL GALI (THE FADING BAZAR)



BOTAL GALI
THE FADING BAZAR


It was a working day early in the morning when I accompanied my driver in Karachi to go to BOTAL GALI (Bottle Lane) as my previous attempts to enter into this congested and narrow lane proved to be an exercise in futility because I committed the common mistake of accessing this lane during the peak rush hours in the afternoon previously.


It was about 9.00 am the traffic was light and I made my way from D.H.A. Karachi to Bander road. Here again I had to make a double left turn to Hassan Ali Effendi road and crossed Pakistan Chowk to reach BOTAL GALI.

BOTAL GALI at the time of partition was called PARSI GALI as most of the residents at that time were PARSI’s having migrated from India and even some people of British origin also had their residences there.

The street gradually transformed from a thriving residential district to a commercial one, featuring shops selling all kinds of bottles — perfumes, medicines, beverages, you name it.
 
Later on it was termed as BOTAL GALI because all sorts of bottles whether in glass, ceramic, brass, plastic, pewter and leather could be sold and purchased here. The real fascination of this GALI is that you can find all sorts of fancy, psychedelic empty liquor bottles which have been cleaned and purified for future consumption.
  
BOTAL GALI stands out as a mix of architecture having survived centuries old wear and tear and beyond expectations it gives a very fascinating appeal from a distance but as you come near it and enter the GALI you find surviving blocks of apartments and shops here and there that are in sharp contrast with the monumental ugliness of recent horrendous cement construction which has taken around this place.
 
Now a day’s BOTAL GALI also is a home for a lot of perfume vendors and their shops glow with the full glitter of the energy savers that are used excessively to highlight and portray the numerous types of perfume bottles which signifies that this business of perfume is better as compared to their neighbors who are selling empty bottles.

In Pakistan there are certain names which click to the mind as if those things are in abundance there but the names are a misnomer as you do not find monkeys on Bandar road, no boat in the boat basin and no female cobra snakes in the NAGIN CHOWRANGI but in BOTAL GALI you do find bottles of all sorts. 
 
BOTAL GALI is surrounded by colonial style buildings which have many stories to tell dating back to pre-partition times and it seems  that this place lives more in the past than in the present and it is more of what it was and not what it is now. 

The old residents of BOTAL GALI have slowly faded out along with the colonial style buildings which have fell in to partial ruins and decrepitude probably because of disrepair, neglect apathy and up keep by the lack of sense of ownership of the residents but two important factors are also an aggravating and catalytic for the present dismal state of affairs and responsible for the slow death of BOTAL GALI the first being the excessive sale of plastic bottles and secondly the increasing crime wave in Karachi.
 
The residents of BOTAL GALI are so akin and used to the common “Robberies, holdup and snatching that they take it as a part of their daily routine. 
The irony of fate is that BOTAL GALI could have been preserved as a symbol of national heritage and reverence to our shared past colonial rule and but it seems that BOTAL GALI has been left to fend for itself against all these odds, as the insecure residents and shop keepers have very little resistance to offer and remain there more for their emotional attachment rather than for the business that they are pursuing. 

The emotional attachment that the people of the street feel for it is evident in their determination to stick to it, no matter what. It’s almost like they are living in the past as if today doesn’t matter.
Of course there are the national problems of load shedding and water supply which makes the place unfriendly and inhospitable to the new comers despite the fact that this is the problem of the whole country.
BOTAL GALI is a collectors delight where you can find a variety of colorful and beautifully carved bottles available in a range of sizes. The most common ones are the plastic and glass ones, especially the smaller palm-sized bottles used by the local perfume and ITTAR industry. 

Of course, many bottles found here are also used solely for decoration purposes. I visited one shop where the shop keeper showed me unique glass bottle and vases which he claimed are more than a century old and has been handed down to him from one generation to another. I jokingly asked him about the price of this decorative long bottle but he proudly shrugged his shoulders and said that these bottles are family heritage and not for sale.
 
The general impression about the shopkeepers of BOTAL GALI is that they are rude and arrogant but what is really interesting is the stories they have to tell some of which date back to the pre-partition times. 

BOTAL GALI is like a small island demarcated by old high rise buildings but it is just a street which has an amalgamation of the past and present, from genie style mysterious colored glass bottles to the present bulk produced plastic bottles where you can see people buying and selling and interacting with one another.

There are certain nooks and corners of BOTAL GALI which give a mysterious look as they do not appear as they used to be, by that I mean closed shops and blank walls which are just used as a support of dump trash. Motorcycles are parked haphazardly in the GALI which makes the flow of traffic and pedestrians difficult causing parking problems which is a nuisance for the shop keepers who by virtue of shared  emotional attachment are sticking to their shops despite the fact that the business in now going downhill.
This is a wakeup call for all the students of fine arts and volunteers who believe in fine artistic values to come forward redesign these shops hand paint these old bottles so that they can be sold at a premium and the money recycled back for the face lift of BOTAL GALI which is much needed otherwise it will sink into oblivion. 

I appeal to the governor of SINDH along with the minister of Tourism SINDH to kindly allocate some funds for the rehabilitation and refurbishing of this BOTAL GALI so that it can be preserved as a National Icon for posterity and succeeding generations.
 
Dr. Babur Zahiruddin



















TOWER OF SILENCE



TOWER OF SILENCE




As a Master Trainer in Human Resources, I always put MCQ questions to my participants about the various ecological and geographical sites of Pakistan and my favorite question is “Where is the TOWER OF SILENCE located in Pakistan”?

It was the morning of 14th December 2016, at 9.00 am, I was waiting at the entry gate to the PARSI Colony located near KALA PULL (Black Bridge) in Mehmoodabad Karachi and waited for my escort to take me inside for a guided tour of the PARSI Colony Karachi.

The PARSI’s are a very close knit secluded community who pride themselves in their religious norms, customs and traditions which they have practiced for times immemorial.
Hence the entry into the closely guarded walled PARSI colony is restricted and you can only enter if you have some PARSI friend escorting you and in this case it was one of my old Army contacts who arrived on time and took me inside the colony.
My objective today was to see the Tower of Silence in the PARSI Colony which had always intrigued me and was like an obsession for me to visit and write about this secluded, mysterious, cryptic, esoteric forbidden area. 

My escort took me up to the funeral pier and told me that beyond this point even he cannot go as the ritual precinct can only be entered by a special class of pallbearers, called nusessalars, a contraction of nasa.salar, caretaker (-salar) of potential pollutants (nasa-).
A TOWER OF SILENCE is a circular, raised structure built by PARSI’s (Zoroastrians) for excarnation – that is, for dead bodies to be exposed to carrion birds.
Carrion birds are large, carnivorous, scavenger birds, species include buzzards, rocs, condors, vultures, and swoops. They usually have featherless heads and broad, slow-flapping wingspans. 

The Zoroastrians faith and rationale is that the earth and fire are considered sacred and should not be exposed to contamination. Zoroastrian tradition considers a dead body (in addition to cut hair and nail parings) to be nasu, unclean, i.e. potential pollutants.
One of the earliest literary descriptions of such a building appears in the late 9th-century Epistles of Manushchihr, where the technical term is astodan, "ossuary".  Ossuary a container or room in which the bones of dead people are placed. Another term used is dokhmag, for any place for the dead. 

In the Indo Pak sub continent the first tower of silence was built in Doongerwadi Mumbai and hence bears the same name as it was constructed on a hill of that name.
The modern-day towers, which are fairly uniform in their construction, have an almost flat roof, with the perimeter being slightly higher than the center so that the remains slide down easily.
The roof is divided into three concentric rings: the bodies of men are arranged around the outer ring, women in the second circle, and children in the innermost ring. 

The bodies are then left for the Vultures to dispose off and no other method has proved fully effective.
Once the bones have been bleached by the sun and wind, which can take as long as a year, they are collected in an ossuary pit at the center of the tower, where – assisted by lime – they gradually disintegrate, and the remaining material – with run-off rainwater or the underlying sea takes care of the rest.  
If you look at the old map of Karachi the sea had access right up to Mahmoodabad, Baradari, and Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazaar, but later on with the passage of time the sea receded leaving behind the sandy beaches of Clifton and sea view.

As I was taking photographs of the tower I could not help noticing that there were no carrion birds in the vicinity and only a few stray eagles  and kites perched themselves above the Tower walls.
The reasons for this is  the population of birds of prey in the Indian subcontinent has declined nearly 100% due to DICLOFENAC poisoning of the birds following the introduction of that drug for livestock in the 1990. 

The few surviving birds are often unable to fully consume the bodies. PARSI communities in India are currently evaluating captive breeding of vultures and the use of "solar concentrators" to accelerate decomposition. Some have been forced to resort to burial, as the solar collectors work only in clear weather. 

The PARSI community in Pakistan are concentrated mostly in the city of Karachi and have made quite a remarkable impact on the metropolis, but the size of the always small PARSI community in Karachi is on the decline.

 

The major reason for the declining population of PARSI’s in Karachi is migration to Western countries.
There are about 1200 to 1300 PARSI’S in Pakistan according to a local census done privately and the attrition rate is further declining due to the senility of the PARSI population and low reproductive rate just like the drop in the ocean of a city.
In recent years, the PARSI’s motivation to leave Pakistan has been compounded by the extremely volatile political and security conditions, a sentiment reflected among both the young and old in the community.

The contribution of the PARSI’s in charitable, philanthropic and altruistic activities like, school, dispensaries, play grounds, hospitals and welfare centres without discrimination of religion has to be applauded and placed on record.

 
PARSI’s are sometimes referred to as "fire-worshippers" because of the central role that fire plays in their rituals. Their temples each have a consecrated fire that burns eternally and some of the fires have been kept alive for centuries.
The priests Nawar wear masks covering their mouths and noses so that the fire is not desecrated by their breath or saliva.

More than half the PARSI population in Karachi now is over fifty years old. The local clergy MOBED
also called DASTURJI is aging, without anyone to replace them.

It is very difficult to get hold of trained Nawar as they are schooled in India, and are in no mood to move to Pakistan "for all the money in the world."
"At our fire temple, we have three priests. Two of them are more than 80 years old," says Shahveer Byramji, Zane Byramji's uncle and a managing trustee of one of the two fire temples in the city.

 
I stood at the funeral pier and glanced around I was wonder stuck with many tablets, plaques and inscriptions which were written on the structures around the tower of silence and notable of them was
UNEQUAL IN LIFE, ALL LIE EQUAL IN DEATH.

But there was more written on that marble slab, in letters accentuated with black ink: NO SPECIAL PLACE FOR ANYONE. NO MINE, NO THINE, NO HIS, NO HERS, ALL INSEPARABLE AND INDISTINGUISHABLE, SLEEP SIDE BY SIDE, PARTNERS AND EQUALS.

It is the perception belief and interpretation of one’s religious norms which separates us from one another where as GOD created all human beings equal to one another. 

As I made my way back to the entrance I ruminated deeply that no religion of the world promotes violence but teaches us to live in peace, harmony and to love our fellow human beings.
I hope my message of religious harmony spreads to all corners of the world.   

Dr. Babur Zahiruddin