By Asim Effendi
Sometimes, I wonder how different the British were as administrators, honest to their jobs just our opposite. Even their wives shared with them their responsibilities of winning the public goodwill in carrying out humanitarian work as their hobbies, wherever they served. I see their reflection anywhere I go from the Peshawar Lady Reading Hospital to Karachi Lady Dufferine Hospital.
Thi is the story of the wife of an Indian Civil Service qualified Mr Lawrence, married on 23rd, January 1899 to Phyllis Louise. She was a kind hearted lady and more Sindhi than most Sindhies. She knew Sindhi very well as she was tutored by A. T. Shani.
The Cowasjee School of Midwifery at the Lady Dufferin Hospital in Karachi is a continuation of the Phyllis Louise Lawrence Institute, which was established in 1912 and named after her. She brought medical help to the common people of Sindh and was particularly committed to Sindhi Muslim women of Karachi.
When in Karachi, sometimes in the evening, I would spot old residents of Karachi from Lyari engaged into neck to neck donkey carts race starting from Clifton. It is today I realised the British women equally shared the passion for horse racing. It was June 30th, 1912, that the noble British lady riding the carriage in a horse race unfortunately led her long hairs entangled in the spokes of the carriage and she was pulled off and dragged for a long time that resulted into her tragic death.
Devastated by her untimely death, Lady Phyllis’s husband, Sir Henry Staveley Lawrence, built a marble tomb for her final resting place. It is informed that her spirit was restless after her death and would call out to her husband on certain nights and her soul was also reportedly spotted.
Lady Phyllis’s mausoleum in British-era graveyard is a dome supported by six pillars. Partly renovated in 2007, the ivory-white marble of her tomb was replaced with yellow stone. Now a days this tomb is located in Gora Qabristan, Karachi in very dilapidated condition. On her death a Zamindar from Kohistan, namely Mr. Muhammad Hussain had written “MEMOIR OF LOUISE LAWRENCE_l”, which was published in 1913.
One can only wish if our own civil bureaucracy serving in Karachi show some heart and character and renovate this historic tomb of a kind human being who selflessly served both Muslims and women from Sindh and was destined to be buried there too but to write her off altogether will be ingratitude, a trait that has disgraced us more as a society where no one trusts the other just because we only see the darker side in others that painted us as black both in our beliefs and everyday public dealings to be only self – centric as a nation .