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Here come the Beatles!

- Calcutta police’s crossroads campaign calls upon the Fab Four to rein in city of jaywalkers

The Beatles may have crossed Abbey Road with ease but would struggle to cross Gariahat Road, where many might have spotted them lately.

The Fab Four from Liverpool have literally travelled halfway Across the Universe at Calcutta Traffic Police’s invitation to educate Calcuttans about road rules.

The latest advertising campaign of Calcutta Traffic Police featuring the iconic 1969 Abbey Road album cover of The Beatles has become a runaway hit among music-lovers in the city and gone viral on social networking sites.

From Ballygunge to Esplanade, The Beatles are Here, There and Everywhere, trying to cross Calcutta’s notorious roads that either don’t have zebra crossings or sport ones that “end up at railings, trees, trenches, or similar other obstacles”, in the words of Facebook user Faiz Anwar.

The slogan accompanying the picture of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison walking single file through a zebra crossing — “If they can, why can’t you?” — is apparently aimed at the young and restless, who traffic officers say, are prone to flouting rules.

According to officials, the idea germinated during brainstorming by senior officers to revive a poster campaign that hadn’t created a splash since the campaign built around the Kolkata Knight Riders and Kolaveri Di six months ago.

“We toyed with ideas ranging from Shakira to Gangnam Style, keeping the youth in mind. We finally chose The Beatles because of their timeless appeal and the photograph, which fits the bill,” a senior traffic officer said.

The police are banking on The Beatles to not only help the youth identify with the awareness campaign but also instill a sense of pedestrian discipline sorely missing on the streets of the city.

If the number of eyeballs the campaign has grabbed is any indication, this jaywalker’s paradise has already taken notice (and hopefully noted) that it is “cool” to use a zebra crossing like The Beatles do in the poster.

“Earlier, Calcutta police to me meant pot-bellied and uncool people. But after seeing this, I think they are the coolest! I want to meet the guy behind this idea. Now when I use a zebra crossing, I feel I am walking down Abbey Road!” said Angela Gomes, a 31-year-old teacher at Calcutta Girls’ School who couldn’t resist sharing the picture from the Facebook page of Calcutta Traffic Police on her FB page.

The photograph was up on Facebook and Twitter within hours of hitting the streets and was shared at a furious pace by not just Calcuttans but Netizens in other cities as well. Payel Majumdar, a 23-year-old journalist in Delhi who saw the poster on Facebook and instantly shared it with her friends, said: “Having grown up listening to the Abbey Road album, I felt that the use of the famous cover was very innovative and should be replicated in the capital as well.”

Till 10pm on Tuesday, the poster on the police’s Facebook page had garnered 331 “shares” and 420 “likes”.

“The Beatles touched thousands of lives with their music and we are simply trying to use their universal appeal to save lives,” Supratim Sarkar, the joint commissioner of police (traffic), said.

Music composer Neel Dutt was among those pleasantly surprised to see the Fab Four in a traffic campaign by the city police. “Calcutta has had a long love affair with The Beatles and if that can make people abide by rules, then nothing like it,” he said.

But the city police aren’t the first in Bengal to build a campaign around an iconic band. In 2009, a photograph of Pink Floyd’s 1994 album Division Bell was used by the then ruling CPM to “expose the two-faced nature” of the rival Trinamul Congress.

Traffic officers say it will take time for the posters to have a “tangible impact” on road behaviour. “The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness without preaching,” joint commissioner Sarkar said. “The number of spot fines has gone up steadily in the last three years, but that needs to be complemented with increased awareness about rules.”

For those who don’t fancy the Fab Four, the traffic department has come up with an alternative built around a catchy jingle of a mobile service provider. “Hello honey bunny, chalo aain maani (let’s follow the rules),” screams the slogan.

Whether it’s Honey Bunny or Honey Don’t playing in your head, the police will be hoping this jaywalker’s paradise learns to cross a street the right way. Now if only we had proper zebra crossings and cameras like on Abbey Road.

Can The Beatles inspire Calcuttans to follow road rules? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com