There is something captivating about tram rides in Kolkata. It's amazing that this relic of British Raj is still on track, let alone plying. But Calcutta Transport Corporation (CTC) has long suffered from dereliction and the dwindling routes bears testimony to this neglect. The service is apparently on its last leg, though there have been rare hopes of revival from a few enthusiastic government officials.
No city in the world is more apt for a tram-in-shambles ride than Kolkata. The two are in perfect harmony with the other. When the tram moves on the streets, it does so meekly, jostling for space to run through. It's almost apologetic for still occupying precious stretch in a city that is bursting at its seams from overpopulation and constant encroachment. Space is clearly at a premium here. People generally condescend when the tram musters the audacity to ring its bell asking for attention - perhaps because someone has conveniently parked his two-wheeler on its tracks and walked away. Every time the tram inches ahead, it seems to murmur its gratitude for still being allowed on the roads, to anyone who would care to listen. Its acquiescence to its fate is there for all to see. Most people are actually sorry to see the service inevitably fading away.
Still, the old-world-charm of a city that steadfastly refuses to move with the times is best witnessed from a squeaking tram. The windows are always wide open, as are the doors. Your view of the city couldn't be more unhindered. People hop in and out almost on a whim, often while the tram is still moving. For many commuters, it's just a joyride, a way to relive a bygone era or a dab of nostalgia. Nobody in his right mind would take the tram when he has an appointment to keep.
The ticket checker approaches the commuter to collect his fare, wondering what ill-fate could have befallen him. But he's grateful that there are still enough people who use its service. Their numbers might be on the wane but not yet naught. On a good day when traffic is less-than-usual, the tram even breaks into a momentary roar as it speeds through the thoroughfare, the flanking buildings reverberating in joyous approval.
May there be many more days to come before we forever lose the tram.