Dey3Among the things that make India's street landscape so distinctly Indian: Cars dodging herds of cattle, three-wheeled motorized and bicycle rickshaws, and handpainted billboards boasting everything from laundry detergent to Bollywood movies.

My week in Guwahati unveiled quite a few signs of change -- literally. There's an overall sleeker look in the city -- more malls, condos and fancy restaurants -- and the once cartoonish billboards along the side of the road have also gone high-tech. Increasingly they are digitally produced, according to sign painter Arun Dey.

Dey1Nitin, whose photos accompany this entry (click them to see full-size versions), stumbled upon Dey painting this sign for Amul, a food production company, and asked him about his profession.

Dey4It's a dying one, Dey said. He estimated that 95 percent of new billboards are now designed on a computer. They often cater to regional markets, such as mobile provider Airtel's advertisement here showing a drum adorned with a traditional Assamese gamocha, a red and white cloth. Dey2Sign painters now get more business from adorning the backs of rickshaws and sides of trucks with advertisements.

It takes Dey about two days to paint a billboard like the one shown here. Sure enough, when we drove by 24 hours later, the sign was complete.

By S. Mitra Kalita |  November 26, 2005; 10:04 AM ET  | Category:  In Guwahati
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