The first time I went to Kolkata, I also went to Darjeeling. I was much younger then, and I was really just visiting my father’s city, the place he grew up. We went in a tram, of course, and in Darjeeling, we took a ride in a toy train. Everyone talks about how picturesque that is, something tourists must do in Darjeeling.
Returning to Kolkata, I confessed that the tram-ride was much more thrilling than the toy train. My father joyfully took us on another tram ride.
And so, when friends visited me in Kolkata, I insisted that they take a tram. Not to reach a destination (if you’ve lived in Kolkata, you would know how hilarious the very idea of taking a tram to go somewhere is), but for the experience of it.
A very dear friend of mine was, as always, the most expressive about the experience.
“It’s not possible,” she said.
“How can a tram go in one direction and all the traffic in the opposite direction?”
We had a live demonstration. On College Street, traffic covers the road, moving at snail’s pace. It’s a one-way street, of course. It does not have the space to accommodate two-way traffic.
But a heritage tram, ages old, bravely goes in the opposite direction. The tram driver has to be some sort of philosopher, patiently waiting for his tram-line to be clear. Sometimes, he rings his bell, drowned out by blaring taxi horns and even louder voices shouting across the street.
Ultimately, the tram reaches its destination.
The experience is – unique. There’s no other word for it.