The Globe Chowrangi or the Globe Fountain, framed between the Government Islamia Arts and Commerce College and the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology, obtained its name from the gigantic globe placed there - along with fountains, which no longer work.
Everyone says the globe has always been there, although no one is exactly sure about when it was built or by whom. The foundation stone and plaque only mention the date of its renovation and re-inauguration - August 12, 2017 - by Moid Anver, chairman, District Municipal Corporation, Karachi East.
Nevertheless, some people recall that its construction and completion was sometime during 1964, citing as proof the fact that films such as Heera aur Pathar, Behen Bhai and Ek Nagina (starring the ‘Chocolate Hero’ Waheed Murad) were released after 1964. It served as a song location for an eighties film, Nahi Abhi Nahi starring the then young heartthrob Faisal Rehman. As the Pakistan film industry declined, the popularity of this city landmark declined as well. No one now points to the Globe while passing by to exclaim: “Hey it’s the globe from that movie, isn’t it?” Today, most of Karachi’s young generation are ignorant of its existence. They hardly use by this route.
As more bypasses, underpasses, overpasses are built, M.A. Jinnah Road is no longer a major artery, although it was one of the first to be considered for the Bus Rapid Transit routes. The Federal Government’s Green Line Bus takes you from Numaish to Surjani Town and back and there is also the provincial government’s People’s Bus Service and the Orange Line. Now there is the Red Line project, and it is for this reason that the Globe may need to be demolished, as developing a proper public transport system is of supreme importance now.
According to the City Administrator, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the fate of the Globe has yet to be decided and the authorities are considering how best to preserve it. There is talk about the difficulties in moving the concrete structure. Meanwhile, TransKarachi, the operator of the Karachi Breeze System, running the new hybrid buses here, just wants it out of the way.
“It’s still an iconic landmark of Karachi and over half a century old,” says Dr Noman Ahmed, chairman of the Department of Architecture and Planning at NED University, Karachi.
As a former student of the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology as well as a former teacher there, Dr Ahmed used to see almost every day. “You couldn’t miss it. It had great visual impact on the way to the Quaid-i-Azam’s Mausoleum or Numaish or Guru Mandir”.
Neglect of this landmark has led to its yellow and green ice-cream bowl-shaped fountains malfunctioning, with the result that only wild plants grow around it. According to Dr Ahmed, “In the seventies and eighties, when the fountains were working, this was a beautiful pot. The reservoir for the fountains was so clean that camels, horses and donkeys used to stop for a drink from the open tank or hauz there. The fountains and the trees made it a cool and breezy leisure point.” He adds: “It was a pleasant urban space and a picnic spot. The side facing the Quaid’s Mausoleum had the map of Pakistan and of the entire subcontinent. It was a big educational spot for kids”.
A closer look at the Globe with its paint peeling reveals a glaring error. The map of Kashmir is not accurate; in fact, Kashmir is not shown as a part of Pakistan. “This mistake was made during the repainting done in 2017. It was not like that initially. In fact, the map used to be very accurate. So much so that after 1971 there was an alteration made to show Bangladesh as another country,” Dr Ahmed points out.
He believes that the Globe can be saved by planning the bus corridors along adjacent sides. According to him the foundations seem intact and it may be possible to lift the entire structure with the help of heavy cranes. “Instead of demolishing it, it can be moved. Of course, engineers can investigate further. It would be a task for the university architectural departments. One can find another public space for it. Maybe a park or another traffic island,” he concludes.
Shazia Hasan is a reporter for DAWN. She tweets @HasanShazia