Kolkata tram must die to live

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The iconic transportation system is doomed to a fate similar to that of bookstores and movie theaters turned rubble

The iconic transportation system is doomed to a fate similar to that of bookstores and movie theaters turned rubble

Sometimes we seem to wait for things to fade from our lives so we can mourn them, because mourning them is more fashionable than celebrating them, because the elegies we compose make us appear benevolent – even though in reality we are not. not.

What better example than bookstores. From time to time, we shed tears over their disappearance from the landscape of our lives; we lend each other a shoulder during this collective mourning; we remember, we ruminate. Emotional pieces are written – and widely shared – every time a legendary bookstore closes. Such plays generate sadness and anger, and one tries to find the villain behind such closures, not realizing that the villain is none other than us. If bookstores are closing, it’s because we stopped going there a long time ago. The owner of a once-busy bookstore isn’t going to keep his business running just to maintain continuity in your life; he too has a family to feed and expenses to meet.

The bookstore – and its closing – is quickly forgotten as something else comes along to wring our hearts; it could be the demolition of a once popular movie theater. Suddenly, once again, there is a collective wave of sadness and anger. How your parents, after getting married, watched their first movie together there, how you yourself grew up watching movies in this room. What you don’t mention is that one fine day you stopped going to that movie theater — preferring to go to the multiplex — and that’s why it closed.

Kolkata’s iconic tram is destined for a fate similar to that of bookstores and movie theaters that were once household names but have become rubble to make way for a shopping mall or building complex.

The Tram Art Gallery was introduced in Kolkata to allow artists to hire a tram and use it to exhibit their works while traveling around the city

The Tram Art gallery was introduced in Kolkata to allow artists to rent a tram and use it to exhibit their works as it travels around the city | Photo credit: Debashish Bhaduri

The tram is almost gone; barely two lanes remain functional today. And come to think of it, just until the other day, Kolkata and the tram were synonymous, in the sense that it was almost impossible to imagine one without the other.

The Kolkata tram dates back to 1880. It was first powered by horses, then by steam. and by the end of 1905 it was running on electricity. Its popularity as a mode of transport peaked in the 1970s, when the city had over 50 tram lines, before a slow and steady decline began with the construction of the metro and the pace of life became faster. than that of the tramway. But even until ten years ago, the tram was a common sight in Kolkata. What a reassuring sight it was, of the past colliding into the present, making the city unique in the whole country.

Today, when you need a system like the tram more than ever, spotting a tram in Kolkata has become as rare as spotting a rainbow. Here it’s not just the citizens, even the planners are also to blame. It wouldn’t have taken much imagination – only willpower – to integrate the suburban railway, metro and light rail into an efficient transport network that would have rid Kolkata of car pollution, traffic jams and troubles. parking. But no, we need something to shed tears for. Especially Kolkata, which loves its past so much. Unless the tram is running in the past, it won’t get much love. He must die to live.

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