Kolkata: It was a ride they had only read about in books. So, when 72 students and teachers from Pakistan reached the Kidderpore tram depot on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, their joy knew no bound. After spending a week in IIT-Kharagpur, the first thing they wanted to experience was a tram ride. The excited group, mostly students of arts from Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad, Sindh practically jostled for a seat in the tram.
According to TOI Assistant professor with National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore, Fakharullah Tahir, said, “How could we miss it? We had heard Karachi was the only city with a tramway. But sadly, there is no trace of it now. The government could have preserved some stretches for posterity.” His students kept clicking almost every movement of the tram from inside as well as outside as it chugged slowly to Ballygunge.
Mohammed Wasif, a final-year student of NCA, requested the motorman to let him in his cabin, which the latter gladly agreed to. “It was a dream-come-true experience for me. I got some wonderful shots of the city and enjoyed the amazing tram ride.”
Creative director and international collaborator of SPIC MACAY Harsh Narayan, who accompanied them on the trip, said, “The objective of our programme is to establish people-to-people contact, which has remained wonderfully warm despite the political tensions between the two nations..”
“I never felt not being at home. When we crossed the border, we found hardly any change in the landscape, culture, food habits and topics of discourse. This trip will be etched permanently in my memory. I sincerely hope that this is not my last trip,” said Moheera Akram, a student at Centre of Excellence in Art and Design, Hyderabad. Another student of CEAD Aisha Liaquat said, “What is absolutely fascinating about Kolkata is its old buildings. They add an amazing charm to the city.”
Saweela Aamin, another student of NCA who performed Kathak at SPIC MACAY, said, “I want to come back to India every year, if possible. If both the nations can relax the visa prohibition after proper verification, then the student communities on either side of the border will benefit. We have a shared history and culture and we have so much to learn from each other.”