The Hope Lodge: Knocking History’s Corridor

  • 04 Mar - 10 Mar, 2017
  • Mariam Khan
  • Spotlight

As cars buzz on Din Muhammad Wafai Road and business runs as usual, a structure stands still, holding the past firmly in its foundations. Let’s step into a time loop, one where the Quaid-e-Azam would be seated in a horse-drawn carriage for a mundane commute, while seated next to him would be his sister, Ms Fatima Jinnah. As the two would shuttle, beady eyes would be curious to see the elegant Jinnah’s. It was usual for the traffic officer to repeatedly tell this young lad to either step out of the low walled boundary or stay in. The individual who assists in breaking through this time loop is none other than Jeevan, the 76-year-old former caretaker of the stone-walled structure, which is now home to the Sindh Wildlife Department, can be found seated outside his cottage, with his better-half, Mira.

“I was born here and my father and brother worked here,” Jeevan says, who took on duty after his brother passed away. In its earlier days, the Hope Lodge, as it was known as, was visited by the affluent class, members of the Freemason. “They [the members] used to show up around 6 in the evenings and would stay till 8 or 9 at night,” Jeevan shares. The husband-wife duo learnt through observation. “We used to see how the cutlery was set on the tables.”

As Jeevan looked after the logistics, his wife and mother would be busy preparing food for the social events which used to take place at the Hope Lodge. “Parties used to take place here and we used to clean up till two in the morning,” Mira says. But food was brought in from hotels too. “Food was catered from Central Hotel and Hotel Metropole too; custard, pudding, different types of jellies were a few delicacies we got to enjoy,” recalls Mira who brings to mind the delicacies which were set on the table including, “cutlets, kebabs, vegetable kebabs, baked and caramel custards.” But what the visitors enjoyed the most was a meal prepared by this lady. “Pattay ki machli [fish wrapped in banana leaves] was one of their favourites,” and as she shares the recipe, Jeevan adds, “Dhansak was one dish the guests could have for five to eight straight days.”

On an average evening, “a line of cars would be seen around the building”. Since all the members belonged to the upper echelons of the social strata, were there any eye-catching automobiles which the couple can bring to mind? And Jeevan’s eyes do the talking as he tries recalling the name of the British luxurious beauty. “Austin was not a rare sight on these grounds, but this one Englishman had a Rolls Royce that had 6 to 8 cylinder engines and it was here that he parked,” Jeevan points to the desolate spot. And from his time travelling, he shares an incident. “One day he forgot his car keys; calmly, he opened its bonnet and set the car into ignition.”

The Provincial head of the Wildlife Department, Saeed Akhtar Balouch, has been in office since 2012. The government of Pakistan banned this organisation, and the Hope Lodge was with the “police, agriculture, revenue; it was after 1993 that it became a department, previously being an autonomous body,” the Conservator Wildlife shares. “It is unlike other government offices where you cannot spot spitting on the walls,” he points out the beauty of the structure.

For Jeevan the days of yore hold pleasant memories. “The building that you see now is reserved as a heritage site by the government. In the days of the British, I used to tell them a bulb of so and so room wasn’t working and right the next, it would be fixed. Have you seen the insides now? They have used low cost tiles which clearly stand out from the original ones which can be found thereon the staircase.”

Walking around the shadowed corridors, as rays of the sun peek through patched Burma Teak framework, one can feel the clock ticking of the British Raj, when the merchants, traders and businessmen alike would throng the corridors that would be revisited generations later.

Since this social spot of the past has been shut down, none of the people Jeevan served have “ever showed up since the time it was closed down in 1973; many of them have now passed away,” Jeevan shares.

Jeevan talks about the dip in numbers of those who visited the building. “During my father’s time there were many [members] like 50-60; till the time I took over about 20-25 were left,” he shares. “The ladies used to come here for ballet dance, and there was a room where they were taught sewing and embroidery; even kids of the merchants had their classes here,” Jeevan talks about this “school near Empress Market” whose students came for their exams at this spot.

From Kurrachee to this very city by the sea being named Karachi, this very structure has stood firm through the tides of time. Stepping in this house of symmetry, what catches the eye is a tablet that reads; “This Masonic Temple by the visitation of God nearly totally destroyed in the monsoon of 1851 has been reerected and restored this of our Lord 1852...”. The templates on the paint-chipped walls dated 1852 tell a tale that can catch the eyes of explorers of history.