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Cross Habib Bank Plaza, Karachi

Cross Habib Bank Plaza and reach the spot where public transport buses turn to hit M. A. Jinnah Road. Right at the corner there is a striking building made of stone (unsure what stone it is) built not in L-shape but its entrance makes an arc that gives the feeling as if the structure itself is moving along the vehicular traffic. Stay here for a moment and take a good look at it. It is unusual, in the sense that edifices that stand at street bends are normally constructed in a way that they present their straight or linear part from corners. Not this one. It also catches the eye because the stone used in its making is different from the one employed in some of the other works of masonry on I.I. Chundrigar Road.

Talking of typewriters, a little bit of looking around and search can help you discover a treasure trove here. Moving through the reasonably wide, somewhat dank, corridors of the building facing the main road, going past some huge columns, will lure you into visiting a couple of rooms. One of them has a pretty antique typewriter resting on a wooden table and a wall-clock. They, for sure, take you to an era when fancy computers and digital watches were not in vogue, and anyone with a 1:40p.m. typing speed was looked at with the respect as babu sahib. The discovery doesn’t end here. There is a safe tijori on which ‘Godrej’ is written in what looks like the monotype corsiva font (could be another typeface). Ah the days of tijoris and clinking-clanking ceiling fans!

According to a bank official, it was on September 25, 1858 that land lease (for 99 years) of the building began and the structure’s earliest (recorded) owner was Seth Haridas Ramdas. On June 11, 1917 Seth Ramdas sold it to Seth Goverdhandas Motilal Mohatta whose son Seth Shiv Rattan Goverdhandas Mohatta sold it to none other than Quaid i Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in August 1948. And on April 11, 1949 the executors of the Quaid’s state, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Prime Minister Nawabzada Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, sold it to the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. Twenty years later, the bank through a merger became Standard Chartered.

[Source: Karachi Legacies of Empires by Peerzada Salman]

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