The wooden dance floor is covered with a film of dust. Giant Victorian arches line the walls, and the ceiling - held up by rectangular trunks of thick wood - holds electric fans dangling on fat, rope-like wires. The edges are taken over by spider-webs. Decaying it may be, but the dance floor of the Karachi Goan Association Club still smacks of splendour.

The energy and money lavished on leisure and entertainment by this once-thriving Karachi community manifests a certain commitment: the colossal structure, the princely arches, the curved wooden panes forcefully remind you that the Goans of Karachi once held this city as their own, and they meant to stay here for good.

Their number never exceeded 20,000 at any point in history, but the Goans of the city, who trickled to the shores of Karachi from the Portuguese colony of Goa (the first immigrant came in 1815) in search of better economic prospects, made Karachi their home, and in many ways, helped shape what was once a small fishing village into a throbbing mainstream city of British India.

“Our history goes back to some 200 years in what is now Pakistan, mainly in Karachi,” said Menin Rodrigues, an avid historian of the community, who lives in Karachi and runs the

Rodrigues said that there are many myths attached to the history of the Goan community in the country, which is regrettable. One such myth is the premise that the Goans were mainly missionaries funnelled by the British to propaganda the Christian faith. “We never came to the shores of Karachi to propagate Christianity,” he said. “The generation of our parents and the ones before them, came to Pakistan equipped with nothing but the hope of better economic opportunities.”

It is interesting to note that the community hails from Goa which was a Portuguese colony until 1961. The generation that witnessed the birth of Pakistan were holders of Portuguese passports. But they relinquished their European identity and accepted Pakistan as their home. “They were so optimistic about their future in this country,” said Rodrigues.

During the British Raj, the Goans, who were well-versed in European culture, which they picked up from their Portuguese ancestors, and educated mainly in missionary-run English schools, made their presence felt in the bureaucracy of the British. They assumed important positions in the structure put up by the British. Manuel Misquita is one shinning examples. He was the mayor of Karachi from 1941 to 1942 and was elected again in 1954 - after Pakistan came to existence.

Since the Goans were considered good at administrative positions and the whole community is predominantly Cathloic, it is no wonder that they filled the important posts of all the major Catholic institutions in Pakistan or even the whole of South Asia for that matter.

“Since we had been assisting the British during their rule mostly in administrative positions, it is no surprise that when they left, the mantle to take care of their institutions landed on our shoulders,” explained Rodrigues.

Because Goan women were usually well-educated and more willing to go out to work, their were large numbers working as teachers and secretaries across the city. The Goan secretary, in fact, was a very familiar sight in offices in the 50s, 60s and beyond.  In the field of English medium education, the role of the Goans cannot be overstated. As an octogenarian Karachiite put it, “the Ms. D’souzas and the Ms. Gomes of missionary schools, actually helped form an English-speaking middle class Pakistani generation with an international outlook who governed the country during its formative years in the bureaucracy of the new Pakistan and later even became heads of states.”

In the 50s and 60s, when the ways of the new state called Pakistan were still new, the Goans were at the forefront of cultural life of the city.

“I can’t explain how different Karachi was in the 60s,” said Desmond Vas, a 65-year-old musician. Vas said that the Goans of Karachi know how to enjoy their lives to the fullest. “Back in those days, every Goan household used to have a piano or violin in their homes, and at least one family member would be a practicing musician.” He added that music and dance run in Goan blood.

There was a sense of security then that has now vanished. Young girls could walk on the streets. The doors of households were mostly left open in the Saddar area, where a large Goan community lived, as everybody knew each other. Nobody was singled out as a member of the majority or minority community. Everyone minded their own business.

“My family was never rich, but I never felt that I missed out anything in life. That was a completely different ball game,” said Vaz, who now lives a quiet life in Garden East, which he fondly calls Cincinnatus Town, by the area’s erstwhile name.

Talking about the culinary delights of the Goan community, Vaz said that Goans, since that times of the British, were known as great cooks. We were the ‘best at everything’, he said.           “The Bohris, Ismailis and Parsis who were mostly our neighbours in the 60s would give it away to our community when it came to food; we are food freaks.”

But the singing and dancing, the openness, the pluralism that made Karachi interesting began to fade in the late ‘70s as the Goans of Karachi began to leave their home city and migrate to the UK and later to the USA, Canada and Australia. The Zia years were particularly hard on the community, with restrictions on alcohol, nightclubs and forms of female attire affecting their extrovert lifestyle.

According to Rodriques, the numbers of Goans living in Karachi has not actually dwindled. Although he agrees that many in the last generation have chosen to migrate,          this trend has not actually decreased the number of Goans living in the city. “We are still around 20,000, in the city, but the influx may have affected the pollination of the community that should have taken place after all these years.”

Augustine Oliver, the treasurer of the Karachi Goan Association said that the migration was not entirely the result the radicalisation of Pakistani society as a whole, although it played an important role. “The Goans were always better-equipped for migration, as they are English-speaking, hard-working and in those days Church institutions played a role too, as they always had contacts in these western countries in need of a workforce from time to time. There is not much of a cultural difference compared to other communities, who also tried going West for greener pastures.”

Today the Goan community in Karachi has visibly taken a back seat; at least from the cultural life of the city. Whatever the causes for this shift, their absence is sorely felt, particularly for people of a certain generation.

Demond Vas shares an anecdote, which he said sums up the Karachi of the ‘60s and ‘70s.           “I went for the first interview of my life to a Muslim businessman. I spoke to him for a few minutes and when, my future boss got to know that I am a Goan, he called his secretary and told her to give me the appointment letter. I was hired.”

Later, when Vaz asked his boss why he made such a split-second decision, he replied that he had hired Vas as an assistant accountant because all he needed was an honest man. With a smile, his boss added: “we know that Goans are honest people!”



Milestones of Goan community


St. Joseph’s Convent School

built in Saddar. Many Goans

join as teachers.



St. Patrick’s Cathedral

built in Saddar.



D.X. Menezes is the

first Karachi Goan to arrive
in Mombasa, Kenya.



August R deCruz becomes
the first Goan in Sind to
take the M.A. Degree.



Group of well-off Goans move out of Saddar/Garri Khata and builds a new township the first in the city.


The Mickey and Alec Correa
band is the ‘best dance
band’ in Karachi.



St. Lawrence’s Church is

built in through contributions made by Goan families.        



The Janu Vaz Band

is the ‘best jazz and blues’
band in Karachi.



Jinnah creates a new state. Goans opt to stay back for economic, education and social needs.



St. Joseph’s
Convent School
celebrates 100 Years!



Francis X. Lobo takes part in the National Elections for a seat in the National Assembly.



Norman D’Souza becomes Pakistani first popular (pop) musician
to be interviewed ‘live’ on PTV .



St. Patrick’s Cathedral

celebrates 100 Years!



Maurice Coutinho starts ‘Goekars’ Own Academy – GOA’ as a social group to encourage Konkani language.



Louis Pinto (Gumby) becomes the country’s most celebrated drummer.




Karachi Goan
Association (KGA)
celebrates 125 years.




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