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Last rides on the Karachi tram

25 Mar 06 04:02

Bells and whistles on the Karachi Tram, a moving feature of Festival Melbourne2006.

Everybody’s talking about the hit of Festival Melbourne2006 that is not contained to one of the great festival sites scattered around the parks of Melbourne – the travelling Karachi W-11 tram.

Decorated trams are nothing new to the people of Melbourne, but this tram is different – it’s not about advertising, it’s about celebrating life. As the words written in Urdu and translated in English emblazoned down the side read – "love is life". A ride on this tram is not about getting somewhere; it’s about really being moved. And the people of and visitors to Melbourne can’t get enough of it!

Since Festival Melbourne2006 kicked off with a bang, this inspirational tram has been making daily journeys around the City Circle route, and like others on this route, it’s free for all passengers.

“People are waiting along the route especially to get on this tram and letting earlier others go by. This tram really generates a festive mood and I haven’t had one bad comment,” said Andrew Mitchell, one of the regular drivers.

So what does the tram look like?

Based on the decorated buses that traverse the city of Karachi, the tram is covered in brightly coloured self-adhesive stickers that have been cut out by hand and make intricate patterns. No part of the tram has been left undecorated – there are beads hanging from the ceiling and even multi-coloured tassels hanging from the rear view mirrors.  Each seat also has a cover with a design that incorporates both the Pakistan and Australian flag – representing the relationship between the two countries.

Responsible for the initiative is Wajid Ali and his team of decorators, who spent four months in Karachi cutting out the stickers and putting together the decorations. They came to Melbourne and spent another six weeks at the Preston Tram Workshops applying the decorations to the 30-year-old Z class tram which is just about to be retired.

When I boarded the tram to experience my own journey, I was greeted by a conductor and handed a ticket that included the message “each has his own destiny”. There is a series of souvenir tickets to collect – each of which has a similar piece of Urdu poetry and its English translation.

I was instantly struck by the message that was elaborately written on a board behind the driver – “Respect your elders, travel in silence”. There certainly wasn’t silence on the tram: the Pakistani music that was playing loudly was certainly drowning out the noise of the tram’s motor. There was also noise coming from the passengers who were all engaged in conversation with each other and admiring the decorations. I learnt later from Andrew, the driver, that this type of sign would typically be seen on a variety of Pakistani transport.

As my journey continued, more and more passengers boarded, many of whom were going nowhere in particular and just wanted to experience a journey on this amazing tram.

You can experience your own visual and cultural journey on this tram which runs from 9am–10pm during Festival Melbourne2006, but you’d better be quick as the festival ends on Sunday 26 March.

- Melissa Mackereth, M2006 Online Reporter

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