Miss Wanderlust, riding the charming Kolkata tram
I am absolutely and irrevocably in love with Kolkata. The charming (albeit crumbling) homes of North Kolkata, the bustling markets, the quaint eateries on Park Street, the spectacular Victoria Monument, the bright yellow spots of vintage sunshine that happen to be the ambassador taxis – what’s there not to love?
The beautiful Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
In keeping with the city’s reputation for being slightly left-of-centre (literally or otherwise) this is the only city in India which still runs a tram service. This definitely puts it onto an Incredible India bucket list of sorts!
As a local joke goes, Kolkata’s tram service is only for those who have too much time to spare or nowhere important to go.
A man standing by the tram, reading his newspaper – perfectly sums up the leisurely pace of this mode of transport.
Given my obsession with old school things, I just had to take a ride on a tram.
Early one morning, I made my way to the Esplanade tram depot and hopped onto the next departing tram (which I later found out was heading towards Shyam Bazaar)
The tram yard at Shyam Bazar, Kolkata
As I jumped into the tram cart, I was greeted by a completely old world, wooden interior. Slap some polish on and it could look just marvelous! Large windows look out onto the street, while gigantic circular fans whirled overhead. Dozens of stern signs stared down at passengers from the walls – not unlike the signs which once adorned Mumbai’s heritage Irani cafes.
Check out the pictures below!
The tram cart was completely empty, save one old gentlemen in a hat reading the Anand Bazaar Patrika, and a young mother clutching an overfull grocery bag. The conductor, seated at the rear sharply rang a bell – and off we went!
After curiously walking across the length of the tram car, I settled down in the front row (window seat of course). The straight backed wooden seats weren’t the most uncomfortable, but then again, the discomfort seemed to magically vanish in a few seconds of being seated.
Calcutta’s trams put the ‘old’ into ‘old world,’ all too literally. The tram car seemed to rattle and clang with every movement! When combined with the everyday street sounds, it made for a charming orchestra. Turns were also a bit of trouble for the tram to maneuver around – At one particularly acute turn, I saw the driver literally hanging out of the side of his cabin, trying to trace the tracks and manually guide the tram along them.
That’s the tram driver!
The tram runs at a pace of its own. It follows signals and general traffic rules – so it must wait patiently at signals and navigate its way through traffic snarls. At one time, one man decided to wash his cow by the side of the road, right in the middle of the tram tracks. So we had to wait patiently till he got his cow and buckets of water out of the way for us to pass through!
Kolkata life as usual as the tram tries to make it’s way through it all
For Rs. 6, I took 30 minutes to travel about 4.5kms. However, just for comparison sake – I took a bus down the exact same route later, paid Rs. 8 and took about 25 minutes in total. Which led me to believe that the tram is not as slow as people believe it is.
Not surprisingly, the conductor was in no hurry to issue my ticket (Let’s not ignore the fact that he had absolutely no other work given the paucity of passengers). He was a jovial fellow, happy to educate me about the tram system and its workings.
All too soon, the tram glided in to its last halt. As I alighted and waved adieu, the driver and conductor both happily waved back. The driver lingered an extra second so I could get my shot of the tram too, bless his soul, before furiously gesticulating at me to get out of the way.
“Stop clicking pictures and get out of the way!”
If you look beyond the speed (or lack of if), Kolkata’s trams celebrate life as we once knew it – unhurried, unpretentious and leisurely. Take a ride on them and take a ride back in time. Allow yourself to slow down, to linger that extra moment. Smell the roses. Watch the city go by through the giant windows.
What an experience! I can’t wait to go back for my next ride. And if you haven’t ridden the Kolkata tram yet, what are you waiting for?
Miss Wanderlust’s favourite experiences
Working at McDonalds (yes, the fast food chain)