Calcutta busabout

Calcutta busabout

The city's public buses are an artist's delight

Brinda Suri
June 30 , 2014
01 Min Read
The next time you’re caught in a Kolkata (many Bengalis still prefer Calcutta) traffic jam, grab this chance to view some remarkable art on wheels. It’s the much-maligned and battered blue-yellow private bus that offers the space for the artistic flourish. Its rear section translates into a painter’s canvas for a cocktail of Indian imagery laced with local flavour. What’s arresting is the twist of patriotism, as the tri-colour is central in each frame and finds myriad expressions: contrail of a jet, Lord Shiva’s trident, sail of a boat, tag on a posy, wings of an eagle, Marxist sickle, and so on.


A common pattern is a bird flying off with a tri-coloured ribbon, but here, too, as in most panels, the attention to detail is noteworthy — it’s not any arbitrary winged figure, but specifically a dove, parrot, stork, duck, etc. A proficient artist in the trade is Bazlur Rehman or Baiju, whose passion for the tri-colour has resulted in a majority of innovative motifs. “The Motor Vehicle Act stipulates the use of national colours and slogans on public transport, so I thought of interpreting my muse a little differently,” he says. About two hours and Rs 400 is what it takes to dress the bus for its road show.


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