November 13, 2008

Kolkata Trams offer a nostalgic journey to commuters

Kolkata (IANS),13 November, 2008: The charm and nostalgia of the old Kolkata streets, the coffee house sessions and landmarks like the Victoria Memorial, would now come alive through line drawings on the body of the trams - the “heritage wheels” of the metropolis.

Master illustrator Samir Biswas has given an all-new look to the colonial transport mode through the dexterity of his line drawings skills that capture the changing facade of Kolkata since the time when it was the British India capital.

Telecom service provider Aircel launched the innovative programme celebrating the rich heritage of the city. The cultural initiative would initially be introduced in 27 trams across the city.

"The drawings will give a complete feel so that people could easily visualise both old and the new features of Kolkata. All the paintings, mostly based on line drawings and watercolours, will showcase the lifestyle of people belonging to different social strata," Biswas told IANS on the sidelines of the programme here Wednesday.

He said the drawings would cover diverse subjects from the Raj era, high-rise buildings, major landmarks like Howrah Bridge, College Street, Park Street and the Hogg Market. "The portraits will describe a tale of the metropolis which has undergone a change in the time of globalisation. The sky-scrapers, glitzy malls and IT township - which are entering into the history of the metropolis and its colonial soul - will also get a place in my artistic depiction," he said.

Biswas, who once worked as a graphic artist with a Kolkata-based leading newspaper group, is a Government Art College graduate. His line drawings skills on Kolkata buildings and life in the metropolis graced many a newspaper and magazine for three decades between the 1970s and 1990s.

"It's a great feeling for me that people now would get to see my creativity," he said. Ever since the first horse-drawn tram of the city rolled out on meter gauge tracks way back on Feb 24, 1873, this medium of transport has virtually become a logo of Kolkata, and has withstood criticism of its utility in the present era of fast-moving vehicles.

The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) was formed in 1880 and registered in London on Dec 22 that year. The electrification of the tram routes was done in the early 20th century. The CTC was taken over by the West Bengal government in the 1970s.

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