There was a time, when Multan was a prosperous river port. There are some who claim that it was River Ravi that flowed by this ancient city, but two maps dating back to 1769 and 1906 respectively, show that this river was Chenab and not the Ravi. Whatever be the case, the fact remains that there was once a river that meandered its way past the walls of the old fort, the memory of which has been kept alive by a locality called Pul Mauj Darya. In the 1930s and 40s, there was a canal that went through here and one heard of families taking summer walks along its lush green banks. My mothers maternal uncle, a renowned academic figure and author of one of the first books on Astronomy called Sair e Aflaak, lived in a beautiful bungalow very close to this canal. Alas, the canal and the beautiful bungalows in its vicinity are gone - devoured by the spectre of progress and commercialisation, leaving nothing but a concrete jungle to mourn their demise. The old Fort situated on a tract of high ground overlooked the city. Besides being the last resting place of two great 'Holy Men of God, it was also the sight of a bloody massacre in a chain of events that included the killing of a group of Raj officers and the storming of the citadel by the British in 1848. The place where all this happened and the bloodiest fighting took place is still known as the Khuni Burj. Walking through the old city quarter below the Fort was like leafing through a story book. Old mohallas accessible through narrow streets, some of them with tall steel gates for added security gave visitors an odd feeling. This sensation was enhanced as one entered the old Hussain Agahi Bazaar with its old world structures, sights, sounds and smells. It was here that one was apt to find the old coin seller squatting by the narrow road, with a glass case open before him. I always stopped here just to be able to enjoy the manner in which the old man described each coin to his potential customers. If one travelled towards the Fort and onwards to Hussain Agahi, one could not miss a busy intersection of multiple roads overlooked by a building topped by cupolas and burjis. This was the Municipal or Town Hall, which dated to pre-independence days. This beautiful structure is categorised as one of Multans signature architectures and continues to serve the purpose it was constructed for. Multan had (and still has) a thriving population of people from other faiths and two Parsee families, the Jamset Jees and the Billimorias, stood out from this community. While the former were very successful businessmen respected for their integrity and reliability, it was my brief association with the latter that brings back nostalgia. I came to know the Billimorias partly because of the Setnas, Karanjias and Rallis of old Lahore - all close friends of my maternal grandfather and my mother. A visit to this familys residence near the CMH was always a source of inspiration, as each one of them radiated selflessness, compassion and purity of heart. I hope some Billimoria reads these lines, for they are but a small tribute to the Parsee community in general and this family in particular. Multan also boasted a large cantonment with some buildings dating back to the 1850s and a Saddar Bazaar that formed the hub of commercial activity. Many of the shops here dated back to the Raj era and operated out of old structures with history written all over them. A corner of Saddar facing the old barracks housed the famous Imperial Cinema that must have provided entertainment to the troops stationed here. If one drove along Sher Shah Road towards Muzaffargarh during the 1960s, one could not miss a fort-like enclosure on the left and at the very fringes of the cantonment. Perhaps, few know that this was once a World War 2 Prisoner of War Camp that housed captured Italian soldiers. What life for these men would have been in Multans sweltering heat and dust, far removed from balmy Italy, is something that I would shudder to even contemplate. Alas, the Multan as I remember it is no more. The beautiful old structures have been torn down and replaced with ugly modern plazas without a single voice being raised to preserve what was the citys history. There is also, perhaps, the need to revise the old Persian couplet that captions this column - for rare now are the dust storms, less visible the beggars and the heat - well it is only there for the poor, who cannot afford air conditioning. The writer is a freelance columnist.