The Goans of Karachi, have a history
of their own.
By Lenny Barreto
With the East India Company consolidating themselves in India and with
the occupation of Sind by Sir Charles Napier in 1843, many Goans did not
want to live under the Portuguese and very many wanted to improve their
lot. So they moved first to Bombay and later to Karachi.
The first Goans came to Karachi by sea in sail boats, called Dhows.
Karachi at the time was a small non-descript town and a one-way stop to
the important ports of Bombay and Calcutta.
It is difficult to imagine the difficulties these early settlers had to
face in an alien land, where conditions were hard. But by sheer grit and
determination and by their adventurous spirit, these early Goan settlers
lost little time in improving their prospects for a better life.
The British needed people to work with the British Army and other civil
jobs in Karachi. They found the Goans hardworking, loyal, honest and
well behaved and easy to manage. The British were, therefore eager to
have these pioneers settle in the area. They first hired them in service
jobs - as domestics, bearers and cooks and some supplied food. The
British subsequently offered them jobs with the British Indian Civil
Services - in the Customs, Police, Railways, Telegraphs and other
Most of the early Goan settlers in Karachi were single males - they
started "chummeries" and moved out, building their own houses and
forming their own townships.
Many would get homesick and would make trips to Goa by sea for a holiday
and on vacation - they would encourage more people to immigrate to
Karachi for better jobs.
One of the main concern of Goans wherever they settled was their
religion and the Karachi Goans were no exception. Most who came to
Karachi were Roman Catholics. Since there was no church in Karachi at
the time, they made sure that one was built. With full support and help
of the Irish Fusiliers, the Goans started St. Patrick's chapel, which
became a Church and later a Cathedral. The Church, became the centre for
the whole Catholic community for adults and children and the Goans gave
very much of their time in helping in all the Church social and
spiritual activities - they organized excellent 'melas' and fairs, they
organized plays and concerts, sports and picnics, they trained altar
boys to serve in the church, opened a catholic library and started a
church choir and organized prayer meetings and sodalities for adults and
teenagers. They even had an early Sunday morning Konkani mass and choir.
The majority of Goans studied at St. Patrick's High School, which was
the only Catholic School for many years in those early days. Most of the
teachers were Goans. It was the Goans of Karachi and St. Patrick's High
School, that gave India and Pakistan their first Cardinals (Cardinal
Valerian Gracias and Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro) and also a number of
Bishops and Archbishops - (New Delhi, Allahabad, Nagpur, Poona,
Calcutta, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad). Besides in the religious and
spiritual - the small community of Karachi Goans excelled in the sports
and athletic fields, and produced one of the best sportsmen in the world
and on the sub-continent, in hockey, cricket and boxing. St. Patrick's
High School and the Karachi Goan Community also gave the British,
Pakistan and India - Judges of the High Court, Army Generals, Cabinet
Ministers, Mayors of cities, Hockey and track Olympians and Test
From a miniscule community of Roman Catholic Goans perhaps one of the
smallest in the world, can this be matched?
As the Goan population in Karachi began to grow, they felt that they had
to organize themselves and have a place to meet and to hold their own
social and sporting events. After working hard, Goans love to have a
good time and to enjoy themselves. So in 1886, Goans started the Goan
Portuguese Association (GPA) and in 1930 gave a new name to the club -
Karachi Goan Association (KGA).
The present KGA building is still to be matched - it is a magnificent
structure, and a popular Karachi landmark. The building has an extensive
dance hall on the upper floor and is also given out on hire for
weddings. There is a spacious stage for concerts, plays and operas.
There are billiard and card rooms, table tennis rooms, a well furnish
library and a well stocked bar and an outdoor tennis court. The KGA was
the pride of the Goans and was the center of many cultural and social
events. First class dances and operas all organized by the members of
the KGA were held at the hall. During the Christmas Season - ten days of
various functions were held at the Cluy - the top bands (all Goan) were
in attendance, also held were children concerts, plays and whist drives.
For two years during World War II the KGA was requisitioned to the
United States Armed Forces, stationed in Karachi and used by them as a
Senior Officers Club. The KGA also played host to the Late Duke of
Windsor then Prince of Wales and the First Governor of the Province of
The Karachi Goan Association put on many plays and operettas- all Goan
talent - which drew high and appreciative audiences - members of the
diplomatic corps, top government officials and prominent and business
people. The operettas were on a very high standard. The musicals and
operettas which was all Goan included the Gilbert and Sullivan Musicals
- the Mikado, the Gondoliers, Trial by Jury, Pirates of Penzance and the
A mile from the KGA building, was the KGA Gymkhana for all outdoor and
indoor sporting activities. It is a 30,000 square yard plot, with two
tennis courts, an indoor badminton court and a field for cricket, hockey
and soccer, which was played regularly on these grounds. Inter village
games were held regularly on these grounds. As in any other place if
there is more than one Goan there has to another Goan Club. This was an
era when the community was divided based on social and professional
status and many Goans started separate clubs for themselves and
families. In Karachi another Club - The Goan Union was organized - a
very well run club with a lot of exceptional talent. Smaller than the
KGA, but very successful. Never was there any animosity between these
clubs. After all members of both clubs attended the same school and
church and prayed
Given their small size of the population - the Karachi Goans are proud
of their achievements and contributed immensely to the new country that
was created - Pakistan. They did exceedingly well and held top positions
in the various Government and Civil Services and Defence Services. There
was a second migration of Goans from India to Karachi, when Pakistan was
created. Quite a few of them came to settle in Pakistan and all were
successful in their jobs and professions - many became managers in firms
and business houses, some opened their hospitals and medical clinics and
some became high ranking officers in the Defence Services.
The Ideal Life Assurance - the biggest in Karachi now in Pakistan is
purely a Goan institution and spread all over the sub-continent. The
only mill in Karachi at the time was the India Flour Mill a Goan
enterprise and the only printing press was also a Goan enterprise. Here
are the names of some important Goans of Karachi and what they achieved,
mind you this is not a complete list.
Cincinnatus Town in Karachi a very large residential development is
named after an outstanding Goan leader - Cincinnatus D'Abreo. Hussain
D'Silva Town another prominent residential development was started by
Jerome D'Silva. Latin Britto Pedro D'Souza, was also a famous Goan land
developer in Karachi.
Two Karachi Goans held the rank of Lt. Generals in the British India
Army. Frank D'Souza, who was born and was a student in Karachi, became
the first Indian to be appointed by the British as a member of the
Railway Board of India. The membership to the Board was the preserve of
the best. At the time of partition, Jinnah specifically requested Frank
D'Souza for his help to set-up the Railway System in Pakistan. Frank
agreed, but made one condition, that his home in Pakistan would be
de-requisitioned. Jinnah and the Pakistan Government agreed. On
completion of his job in Pakistan, Frank returned to India and gave his
beautiful house in Karachi to the nuns to be used as a home for the
aged. What an excellent man!
As mentioned earlier the first Cardinals of India and Pakistan were from
Karachi - Cardinal Valerian Gracias and Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro.
Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro (Oxford) a brilliant man was mentioned as a "papable"
(possible Pope) in the Time Magazine. After the death of Pope John Paul
I, he was appointed by the Pope as Secretary of several Curia Committees
in Rome. Even as cardinal, he would use his bicycle on some of his
visits, till he was informed by the Inter-nuncio that was not the right
way for a cardinal to travel.
Charles Lobo, Judge of the Sind High Court and Chairman of the Public
Service Commission in Pakistan, was also appointed Pakistan delegate to
the United Nations. Edward Raymond was the first Indian to be appointed
by the British on the Indian sub-continent to adorn the Bench of the
Judicial Commissioner's Court in Sind. His son Herman Raymond (Oxford)
was one time Chief Prosecutor of Sind and Baluchistan and was also made
a Judge of the High Court and was appointed by President Ayub Khan on a
Special Judicial Committee to investigate the action of the politicians.
Edward Raymond's eldest son - Leonard Raymond was Archbishop of
Allahabad, India, and another son Maurice Raymond (Cambridge University)
was the first Pakistani General Manager of the Karachi Port Trust.
Joseph D'Mello was appointed Chairman of the Pakistan Railway Board.
Sydney Pereira rose to be Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy
In the field of sport - Peter Paul Fernandes of Karachi was the first
Goan to be selected as a member of the Indian Olympic Hockey team he
played in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Old Bombayites will remember PP
Fernandes, as he was commonly known, when he would come with the Karachi
St. Patrick's Sports Club hockey Team (all ex-St. Patrick's school
students) or with Karachi Goan Association Team to play in the Aga Khan
Hockey Tournament. Mennen Soares represented Pakistan in Badminton,
maybe the only Goan to represent a country in Badminton. Phoebe Barboza
(nee Dias) the No.1 Women's Badminton player in Pakistan. Dr. Michael
Rodrigues Pakistan's No. 1 Table Tennis Player. Bertie Gomes was the All
India Heavy Weight Boxing Champion .Some of the old-timers say that
Lawrie Fernandes from Karachi, who as an outstanding hockey center
forward and who played for the All India Telegraphs was better than Dyan
Chand, but for some reason was never selected to play for India.
To-day, many Karachi Goans have left their homes in Karachi to settle in
other parts of the world, (Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and the USA
and in other countries) and they have continued to do well in these
countries, naturally so, because of their dedication, loyalty, hard
work, education and religious background.
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