The stretch from the bus stop to Taratolla on my way home from work is about 5 kms. A long stretch of tram line from Joka to Behala Tram Depot acts as road divider. Two sets of tracks – one up and down, with swathes of grass [Green in winter, burnt brush in summer and overgrown tangle in monsoons] on either side and in between, where the lamp posts usually are.
8 months of commuting and yet I am constantly amazed at the denizen’s innovative uses of this divider and to their obliviousness to the incredible chaos all around. This stretch of road has possibly the highest density of population, buses, rickshaw, cyclists, pedestrians, jay walkers, police men, pollution – air and noise, in Kolkata at least, if not in the world. [Small mercies that I can strike auto from this list after the 1st August ban on vehicles more than 15 years old]!
Not long ago, just before the elections, I was shocked one night to see a serenely suicidal Agnikanya Mamata Bannerjee hands folded on the tram tracks. It was a lifelike cut out…but it had given me quite a few anxious moments.
A bustling haat springs up on a ½ kilo meter stretch near the bus stop in the mornings. Vendors with veggies spread on tarps, fish seller squatting at huge ‘bontis’ cheek by jowl with florists who sell mostly withered gladiolis, pujor phool, rajanigandha and nursery displaying their wares on mobile bamboo frames strung up with ferns and all sorts of beautiful foliage in pots! The swathes where they sell their wares are not very wide…but they have it measured to the millimetre and neither they nor the customers pay the slightest attention to passing trams.
Of course the overhead electric lines might snap and fall. That has not happened yet and only a non-resident like me can think of something like that.
There are different haats at regular intervals. In the evening, various stretches are converted into open stores selling wooden furnitures, shital pati madur store and on puja eve statues of Lakshmi, saraswati, Ganesh, jhulan [before Rath] and what not. In the evenings of our stuffy, moist, clammy, humid, never ending summers, pajama-panjabi clad oldies hold their evening addas on these swathes, believe it or not. Seated on plastic stools and chairs that they have carted from their homes just off the Diamond Harbour Road, sipping tea from khullars or plastic cups, discussing world affairs and their solutions no doubt, a world unto themselves despite the traffic on full swing on either side.
And amid all this, in all the ponderous majesty carried on from a previous era, quietly goes the Tram.