I have lately been rather tardy in opening my inbox because of some heavy wedding commitments amongst friends and family. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when I found that I had received a large number of New Year Greetings from people I know and at least three invitations to New Year Bashes. There was a time when these latter messages would have excited me, but not anymore - simply for the reason that my concept of a new year bash nowadays, is to spend the evening in my own home surrounded by my children and grandchildren.

I am, nonetheless, reminded of the time when I was very young and our domain, i.e. Queens Road, was considered unsafe on New Year’s Eve, when our little group of bicycle riders swooped out of respective gates to line up in combat formation in this once tranquil and leafy part of Civil Lines.

Lahore was not far behind Karachi in ringing in the New Year and all festivities connected with this happy moment. The focal point of the programme was the Burt Institute, where Lahore’s Anglo-Indian community held the New Year’s Ball. My father was a regular visitor to the excellent billiard facilities that this historic club provided and as such was always extended an invitation for this Ball. It was only once that he decided to attend the event with ‘yours truly’ in reluctant tow, but the experience was so infectious and unforgettable that it lingers on as a happy memory.

Another place where New Year was celebrated in style was the block of beautiful flats that housed the city’s legendary Anglo-Indian traffic sergeants. These flats were located inside the boundary wall of the sprawling Civil Lines Police facility and were decked out gaily with Christmas and Holiday Ornaments as December drew to a close.

Lahore’s Hotels and Restaurants also joined the festivities to welcome the New Year. Balls were organised in Nedoes and Fallettis, while parties were held in places such as Casino and Standard.

Rawalpindi had its own share of festivities with the focal point being Flashman’s Hotel on the Mall. Much of the Christian community in this city lived in Lal Kurti and the city’s main churches were also located in and around this area. A little over 30 kilometres from this old garrison town lay the pristine hill station of Murree bisected by its own Mall. Famous establishments such as Lintotts, Sams, Ambassador and Cecil Hotels were the places to be in on New Year’s Eve. Sams, Ambassador and Cecil boasted excellent dance floors and bookings here were done months in advance of the event. The Ambassador’s ballroom also doubled as a roller skating rink during the summer season and it was here that I learned the art of balancing on wheels.

It was, however, Karachi’s Goan community that stole the billings as regards New Year. Members of this community lived mostly in and around the Saddar Area and it was treat to see their flats and establishments decorated appropriately for the occasion. The Goans were lovely people, who were not only enterprising, but also epitomised hard work, integrity and character. It is a pity that a large number of these families were forced to migrate in view of the prevalent conditions, depriving Karachi of an essential part of its colourful culture.

There are some people, who consider New Year celebrations as a means of catharsis combined with the opportunity to have a good time. They argue that damming festivities has moved them underground and inside houses, thus promoting hypocrisy. I have no take in this point of view or in the voice of those, who are in favour of putting a stop to what they term as hooliganism. What I do know is that I miss the happy atmosphere that once pervaded our lives, while the New Year was rung in.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.