The human spirit is I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E! Ever pause to muse on it?
The unsatiable quest of the spirit to voice its greatest loves and passion manifests itself in a myriad ways. Here is one such story…
Two continents, two vastly different people, languages, cultures and yet, there are various points when the two criss cross and merge miraculously. To use a cliché, one is cricket and the other is trams.
The Calcutta-Melbourne Connect has been enriched by an amazingly spirited gentleman by the name of Roberto D’Andrea, who has woven this tale out of his unwavering passion for Trams.
Once a tram conductor all the way Down Under in Melbourne, Roberto providentially landed up in Calcutta in the 1990s on a holiday and was tempted to take a ride on the trams here. The familiar ‘ting ting’ as Roberto put it of the Trams here, made sure it was going to be a journey called ‘TramJatra’, that would span decades and distances.
A byte from the TramJatra website: (www.tramjatra.net)
‘On his (Roberto’s) first day on Indian soil he headed straight to the Esplanade Tram Terminus. Boarding a tram he explained that he was a ‘tram wallah’ from Australia. The friendly trammies sat him down and took him to Belgatchia Tram Depot in North Calcutta. They showed him around and a trammie friendship between Melbourne and Calcutta was born. The Belgatchia trammies explained that the Calcutta Tramways was being run-down and set up for closure.
On Roberto’s return to Australia he maintained contact with his new Calcuttan friends. After discussions with Melbourne trammies and artist/RMIT academic Mick Douglas it was decided that South Melbourne Depot should form a ‘sister’ relationship with the Belgatchia Depot.’
It has been the endeavour of Roberto to share and spread more information about this unique mode of public transport that is sadly under threat. His is the self-driven mission to engage the people of the city in a way, that they see the tram as a viable option to commute and do their bit to lessen their carbon footprint.
So thus began the story of Tram Jatra- or the Journey of the Tram. In both hemispheres, artists and even passengers have been involved in decorating the trams. The Tram Jatra always bases itself on a theme, around which it weaves the singular purpose of promoting some serious tram-loving!
Interestingly, each Tram is always christened with a name reflecting the theme it carries.‘Starting in Calcutta-1996 (Melbourne-Calcutta Tramways Friendship), Melbourne February 1997 (Bondhu Tram), Calcutta-1997 (Calbourne), Melbourne-2000 (Moomba), Kolkata-2001 (Tramjatra, Sundari, Cricket, Childrens Trams, Moomba), Melbourne-2001 (Moomba), Melbourne-2002 (Moomba), Kolkata-2005 (Tramjatra Book Launch), Kolkata-2012 (Paribeshbandhu Tramjatra) and Kolkata-2013 (Gitanjali Tramjatra).’
This year Tram Jatra is commemorating its 20th Anniversary and has readied its ‘Greatest Hits’ Tram specially- that would Tram number 247.
Roberto himself will be one of the special conductors on board who will interact with the crowd- (the gentleman has a commendable vocabulary of Bengali word), and discuss the history and significance of trams. This is in real time- regular passengers will be able to take this tram, and yet be treated to a unique endeavour.
What makes this year’s Tram Jatra more interesting is the lovely artwork being lovingly created on the tram. Artistes Priyanka, Pranoy and Biswajit have been hard at work for this.
Commuters will be in for a genuine delight when the fantastic performers of the Whole Nine Yards, takes stage in the tram, during the ride! The group comprising some seriously talented performers have an ace up their sleeve, which shall be played out in due course of the journey. Sitting in for one of their rehearsals had me enthralled, amused and very entertained. Not wishing to be a killjoy by sharing more details, I can assure you, it is going to be one memorable ride. Director/Script writer Avrojit Sen, along with Sayantan Banerjee, Tanika Basu, Monomita Choudhury, Prasun Saha, Suhotra Mukhopadhyay, and Soumyojit Dey- best wishes from Calcutta Walks!
The event will be inaugurated at the Esplanade Tram Depot on Saturday morning 10 am, and the tram will then wend its way through the city to the Belgachhia tram depot. The tram will run its course for four days…trying different routes, to reach out to as many people as possible.
A bit about Roberto before we conclude- a soft spoken individual with limitless grit and determination that battles red tape, language barriers and distances with equal ease. He is welcoming, and shares such a warm camaraderie with the workers, conductors and basically, everyone who is associated with trams.
Calcutta Walks is delighted to be part of this story, as we bring to this endeavour, the spotlight it deserves. The love for the City and her trams is palpable in every thought associated with Tram Jatra and Roberto.
Tomorrow, Calcutta Walks rides with the special Greatest Hits tram, and we will bring you some live updates and pictures from the event itself! Stay tuned or catch the tram if you can!
Roberto D’Andrea, Souroshankha Maji, Whole Nine Yards, Mahadeb Shi and the workers at the Nonapukur Tram Depot.
Pic credits: Preeti Roychoudhury.