AUSTRALIA -UNS : Known to be one of Karachi’s star attraction “Karachi W11” has now rightfully taken its place as a permanent exhibit at the Melbourne Museum of Australia.
Resting in the workshop was an old, somewhat rusty, metal structure that had been running on Melbourne tracks since 1978. After 28 years of serving commuters, the tram was due to retire in 2006.
Wajid Ali and his fellow craftsmen worked tirelessly for months to add the “Pakistani touch” to the seemingly lifeless tram.
“Since the tram was about to retire, its condition to us it looked like a dead body,” recalls Ali.
It was the same year when Melbourne was to host the Commonwealth Games for the first time and the organizers of the games had tasked a Melbourne academic, Mick Douglas, to develop a project with artisans of current and former Commonwealth nations as part of the cultural festival.
Mr Douglas got in touch with his contact in Pakistan, Ms. Duriya Kazi, Head of Department of Visual Studies, at the University of Karachi to discuss the project.
Ms. Kazi then referred Mr. Douglas to Mr. Ali and Chamak Patti Wala’s who specialize in vehicle decorations.
Mr. Ali had completed his thesis on the life of a truck driver. This gave him the necessary insight and passion to take on such a project.
“I had never come across this level of excitement investment in the decoration of a vehicle as the W11 mini-bus,” recalls Mr. Douglas.
“It seemed to me to be timely to invite these decorators to decorate a Melbourne tram in a similar fashion as the mini bus in Karachi.”
“W11 is the most popular bus in Karachi in terms of decoration. It is like a museum on wheels,” says Mr. Ali.
It took a period of three months, and a 15-man team working day and night, to pre-prepare all the material in Karachi. It was then shipped to the Preston workshop in Melbourne.
The W11 was then ready as a new bride for its launch. The title given to the Karachi W11 Tram was ‘Pyar Zindagi Hai – Love is life’.
“I think everyone thought something extraordinary was happening and no one had any pre-conceived expectations,” Mr. Ali recalls from his time at the Preston workshop.
Months of planning, preparation and hard work had all led to this moment; the launch of Karachi W11 tram by the Minister for Commonwealth Games Justin Madden.
The tram then completed a course of 16 days around the City Circle route, hosting over 80,000 people. During their journey, they were given a souvenir ticket which had traditional truck art poetry written on it.
To mimic what the conductors do in Karachi the W11 tram also had a conductor who belonged to The Connie, a performance troupe of tram conductors.
Robert D’Andrea who performed the conducting duties is still amazed at peoples’ reactions.
“Performing tram conductors would jump out of the tram to call out the stops. Once everyone was inside they would bang the side of the tram and head back inside,” recalls Robert D’Andrea.
“There was a lot of dancing, singing and live performances happening. It was essentially a dance tram with cultural and creative expression,” says Mr. D’Andrea.