Tales of History #01: Trams and Calcutta-The Love Story!

by Travelature Team

Romeo and Juliet were inseparable, and so was Heer and Ranjha. You know about it, right? Did you know about the love story of Trams and Calcutta? It goes back to the 80s when it all started. It was when Kolkata was Calcutta. It was when India was one of the many colonies of the British Raj. This was when Calcutta was introduced to ‘Trams’, and the rest developed into a marvellous union and you can live it even in 2021.

It is 2021 and if you walk around the streets of Kolkata you will witness the perfect portrait of a city that is still living in its past. Yes, Kolkata is struggling hard to live in its presence. For starters, you can see buildings that belong to the pre-independent era but if you look closely, you can see the exterior of an air-conditioning system.

Kolkata had been the capital of India while we were just a mere British colony in the global picture. As a result, ‘Calcutta’ had the benefit of several British inheritances. While you walk down the streets of Kolkata (which we desperately suggest), you can come across some iron clad snake and ladder structures on the road. Those are the ‘tram tracks’. Yes, trams in Kolkata which are still functional in 2021 are one of the oldest legacies of the Britishers.

Image courtesy: Indrobhotto

The Calcutta Tramway Company was formed and registered in London on 22 December 1880. Calcutta was the first city in Asia to get the electric tram. The service began in 1902 between Esplanade and Kidderpore. Earlier there used to be horse-drawn trams. It is quite a mystery if Britishers implemented trams for improving their logistics or they had preconceived that they were going to stay in India for eternity. Irrespective of the answer, let us take a moment to appreciate this technological marvel.

Trams and Kolkata go hand in hand. Although in 2021, trams are looked at more as a heritage rather than as a mode of transport. An eco-friendly mode of transport that has been running since ages!

If you are in Kolkata and you prefer to look closely at its history but at a slow pace than your everyday schedule, you should know trams are your go-to ride. It is cost-effective and the honourable Government of West Bengal have already been modernising these trams into more commercial and comfortable vehicles for tourists.

Image by Abhijit Kar Gupta via Flickr

Here is the list of our favourite routes where you can spot a tram if not a tram depot:

idyllic tram route from Kidderpore to Esplanade

It starts with Route No. 36 which connects Kidderpore to Esplanade and runs for the most part through Maidan. Now you need to understand that Kolkata is not just a hub for food and Durga Puja but also football and football. Yes, you read that right, the people of Kolkata are die-hard football fans. If you ever want to see the circus then you should take this route. If not, Esplanade is your stop for filling in your bags with clothes if you are on a tight budget.

Time Travel Tram Route No 30. and Kalighat

Image courtesy: Kolkata Tourism

When the same line connects up with Route No. 30 and Kalighat, then you are in for an entirely different ride. How? The route to Kalighat is like going through a time machine. You will be finding yourself in Calcutta of the 19s because Kolkata is always living in the past but never fails to reinvent itself.

The essence of North Calcutta Vicinity from Belgachia-Esplanade

Image courtesy: Telegraph India

For those who like their sightseeing in one tight package, the best route to take is the Belgachia-Esplanade one (Route No 1). This takes us through the heart of North Calcutta heritage, along Bidhan Sarani, College Street, Nirmal Chandra Street and finally turning right into Lenin Sarani. En-route, one can hop off at the College Street coffee house or dive straight into Asia’s largest book slum, which is college street itself.

Action-Packed route runs from Sealdah station to Park Circus

In addition to that, the route that runs from Sealdah station to Park Circus is another delight in itself. It passes through Entally and Mallikbazar, with the tram slowing down tantalisingly in front of the two best biryani eateries in town, Shiraz and Rahmaniya. And for those who’d prefer to use the tramcar for a long and leisurely shopping expedition, Route No 29 runs from the Ballygunge tram depot along the length of Gariahat.

Image courtesy: Piku (Indian Hindi-language comedy-drama film directed by Shoojit Sircar)

The love story between trams and Calcutta is not only a memoir. It has been a part of several Bollywood movies. We are dropping a list of those movies for your reference so that next time when you watch these movies, they remind you of this Calcutta love story.

List of Bollywood Movies: Piku, Kahani, Barfi, Bullet Raja, Byomkesh Bakshi, and Lootera.

Image courtesy: oldkolkata.blogspot.com

The picture showing a man in the year probably in the year 1945 or 46 trying to get into the Tram from the window to get a seat. From the image, you can easily know how the trams were popular during those days.

Trams are a dying species in Kolkata. Yet, the history of the city of Joy runs with it. For every traveller, trams must be on their checklist. The reason is a beautiful tale. All the tram routes of Kolkata runs through the major areas in Kolkata. These areas, collectively, reflect the culture of ‘Calcutta’. It is for enthusiastic travellers like you and us that trams in Kolkata are still visible to our eyes as soon as we step inside the city of joy.

In the meantime, if you have reached the end then do not forget to check out the rest of our articles. If you have any more suggestions, better routes or you think we can add more to our article, do not hesitate to reach us through Email, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. If you have your travel story to share then you can do that by tagging us with the hashtag #travelature on Instagram. Most importantly, keep travelling and keep exploring.

Content Curator & Creative Writer

Dr. Arindam Ballav

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