The hustle-bustle is a trademark of Karachi; cars whizzing by in fast-lanes on motorways, the influx of traffic in peak hours and the mobile populace of the city thriving in the energy and excitement. You feel that buzz when you are out there, and quite often in this fast pace of life, you often ignore the historical landmarks camouflaged in the façade of new architecture and same is the case with the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum, that is perched at the ventral end of Sharea Faisal facing Fatima Jinnah Road (formerly Bonus Road). Despite being situated at a prime location in the city, I was shocked to see that when I visited the museum, there was hardly a single visitor. Maybe, moving by the road, one doesn't really turn heads to see the magnificent frontage of a remnant of colonial architecture that has been well-preserved and maintained.
This Independence Day, I decided to visit the Museum, to appreciate what it housed regarding our great founder of the nation. A worn out wooden plaque tied on the huge iron gate read the timings of the Museum, no guard was present at the gate to tender to any visitor who might have stumbled over to see. However, upon beating the iron locks, a guard appeared from the building, only to tell me that the Museum is closed on Wednesdays.
The next day I went there again eager enough to collect each and every detail of the house that once was the possession of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (now under the Department of Antiquities, Government of Sindh).
The moment I entered, the very first thought that came into my mind was that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had an artistic sense and it is proved through his elegant dresses that he had a classy collection of hats which went well with the linguistic élan with which he communicated. It also mirrors in this building that he chose as his abode in 1943.
The house (formerly known as Flag Staff House covers the area of 10, 241 square yards) was built in the initial years of the 19th century (there are no records when this house was actually built). Initially it was owned by Mr. Ramchand Hansraj Kachi Lahana and till 1922 he was the landlord of the house. Later, it was obtained by British Indian Army in 1940 and from then onward it remained the temporary residence of Brig. Hartwell, Major General C. Durnfort, Maj. Gen. N. G. Hind and General Douglas D. Gracy who later became the Commander-in-Chief of Royal Pakistan Army (thus it was named Flag Staff House).
Quaid-e-Azam bought this house in August 1943 from Parsi business magnate Sohrab Kavasji (former mayor of Karachi) for Rs. 115,000. It was a year later that the deed of purchase was registered probably in March 1944 in the name of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Barrister-at-Law, Bombay. After the partition, in September 1947, his personal belongings were shifted here from his house at 10 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi. But Quaid-e-Azam did not get time to live here. After his demise in 1948, Mohtarma Fatima Ali Jinnah moved here on 13th September 1948 and lived here till 1964 before moving to her own house in Clifton. It was after the demise of Shirin Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam's last surviving sister that the house was given under the care of Quaid-e-Azam Trust. When the Trust gave an advertisement in the newspaper for its sale, Government of Pakistan bought it in February 1983 for Rs. 51,07,000, declared it as a national asset and renamed it as Quaid-e-Azam House. It opened to the public on 25th November 1993.
Architecture Of The House
Spread on 10,241 sq. yards, the residential area of the house is not too large. On the ground floor there is a study room, a drawing room, a dining room and the adjacent lobby that leads to the kitchen. On the first floor, there are two bedrooms (one used by Fatima Ali Jinnah and the second one belonged to Quaid-e-Azam), a dressing room and a drawing room. The staff quarters are on the backside of the main residential building whereas annexe is situated at the right side. The house is fully furnished with the relics Quaid-e-Azam used during his lifetime and his personal pictures from his early days with his daughter and sister adorn the inside walls.
Moses Somake was the genius behind the architect of the building. There are reports that Somake had a habit of signing his buildings by inscribing his name in an obscure place that could be found with little effort. In the case of the Quaid-e-Azam House, it is etched on an inner face of the porch. Somake's work on this house was confined to the main double storey building, while the annex was added to the premises at a later date. Somake lavished his attention on the façade facing the Fatima Jinnah Road, which was the main thoroughfare at the time.
The building is not heavily embellished, it is carved out very simply but what made it stand out among the other modern buildings is the symmetry of the front portion, arched openings and its semicircular balconies. Plus it is a lovely piece of stonemasonry.