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Ghulam Hoosain Khalikdina Hall & Library, Karachi

It was local Christian and Hindu humanitarians, not to mention the British, who contributed invaluably to the construction of some of the most handsome edifices in Karachi. In 1906, Muslim philanthropists expressed their interest in coming up with a site that could be used for literary (and recreational) pursuits. Ghulam Hussein Khalikdina was the chief benefactor of the project that came to be known as the Ghulam Hussein Khalikdina Hall and Library.

The Palladian features of the building (Andrea Palladio was a famous Venetian architect who died in 1580 at the age of 72) are noteworthy. The triangular pediment, the Ionic portico, the teak wood doors, windows and a lofty ceiling add to the grandeur of the hall. The reason that the makers of the building did not use local elements could be the then modern approach to learning and recreation.

The interior is not overly ornamented. It is simple in style. The instant you climb the steps to have a closer look at the giant columns, you will see a door to the left that leads to the Khalikdina Hall Library Association - Library and Reading Room. The door to the right has ‘Students Welfare Organisation’ pasted on it. Once you get to the hall you stay there for a while and put your imagination to use. What would it be like before partition? You see well-dressed men flipping through pages of hefty hardbacks. You hear murmurs of the old Karachiites walking across the library. You eavesdrop on chaste English being spoken by the British and some England-returned Indians… This historic place had it all.

In the first half of the 20th century the Khalikdina Hall was a major city centre. The citizens of Karachi were allowed to hold their gatherings here. Even a number of committees of the Karachi Municipality used it for official meetings.

Let’s create a scene. The Khalikdina Hall is abuzz with all sorts of activities, including socio-cultural. The portico is in shipshape condition. The hall is clean. The books placed in the library do not have a single speck of dust. And the vehicular traffic on M. A. Jinnah Road does not jar your nerves.

[Source: Karachi Legacies of Empires by Peerzada Salman]

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