Saturday, December 1, 2012

Trams of Calcutta


Calcutta (now Kolkata) is the only city in India where the trams are still running and I am happy that the government is not planning to take it off the tracks.
Visited Calcutta last week for a family function and I made it a point to have a ride in one of the old jaunty jalopies. It runs at its own pace, the frequency between trips may be far and few in-between, but it takes you from point A to point B, does not pollute, and is cheap.

The closest point for me to board the tram was the Maidan station and I am glad I did that as I could capture these slow moving carriages against the backdrop of lush green surroundings.


Brought back memories of the trams we had in Bombay which went off the tracks in 1964 (did write about it earlier)


While I took the ride, I was observing the driver and realized how alert he had to be. He has his left hand on the accelerator, his right hand on the brake and his leg operates the warning bell.


There are no rear view mirrors, so every time when the tram stops he goes to the side and looks back to see if all has boarded and then takes over the levers. There is no way he can apply sudden brakes, so he has to be always proactive and on the look out for the pedestrians crossing. His worst night mare must be driving through the thick of the city traffic, so his leg is continuously jangling the bell.  

At times the carriage is almost empty and the conductor is relaxed.

We had a mother daughter duo who was begging while making an attempt to sing a Hindi song with the help of two pieces of tiles to keep the rhythm. (it worked something like a castanet)


I did capture some good still and video shots of the journey and tried to make a five minute video of it.

About the video
Holding the camera steady in the tram was a challenge. So having the elbows (and knees) slightly bend I made it work like a steady cam. Many did not know that I was holding a camera so that ‘staring into the camera’ situation did not arise. I managed to capture some shots of the passengers inside and some lovely view of the race course and its fence outside.


After putting together all the snippets, the final task was to wave that magic wand known as Music.  Somebody rightly said that music adds magic to any video.
Getting the right music for this video was the challenge. Went through many Bengali songs but none of them went with the tempo of the movement of the tram. I tried the  popular song Ekla Cholo Re by Kishore Kumar (a very old one) with some lovely Bengali music but it did  not blend with the  rhythm. But when I tried Ekla Cholo Re by Amitabh Bachchan, it blended perfectly with the slow pace of the tram. After completing the video, one of my friends commented “this song goes unnoticed in the original movie (Kahani) but here the song and the video compliment each other perfectly”
After a few days the same guy said “why don’t you put it in a CD and send it to Amitabh? I am sure he will like it”
I said I just know that he stays in some Jalsa in Mumbai and don’t have the proper mailing address. Moreover, he is such a busy man making so many people crorepatis with his multiple choice answers that he won’t have time to look at a 5 minute CD from an ordinary mortal from Pune.
"Don’t you worry about that"  he said "just burn the CD and keep it ready, I will get the address for you"

Now I am really tempted to send that CD as I am mighty pleased with the outcome of the video. Maybe something rubbed off on me from the homeland of Satyajit Ray. 
(to see the video click on the picture below.)


48 comments:

संदीप पवाँर (Jatdevta) said...

Trams journey I am not lucky.

A said...

I love trams :-) Your photos are so... flavorful! Love them!

Aaron said...

trams.. on those quintessentially lazy winter days, we used to get into one of those that used to halt in front of our (Presidency) College and just go along with it sans any specific destination.. brought back ol' memories from grad days.. :)

trees said...

What a fabulous video. I particularly like the way the inherent sounds of the tram...ringing of the bell, the beggar woman's tiles, etc, could be heard between the stanzas of the song. I definitely think you should send it to AB. I've heard that he tweets all the time. Twitter users who read this blog -- make your voice heard with the tall man!

anilkurup said...

Honestly , I would give the video, and the music selection a round of applause. Quite good is may be an understatement.
The shots of the green of Calcutta, and the ambiance in the tram was good.

I wonder when they will put into operation a new tram car after sending the one running now to the museum.

Anuradha Shankar said...

wonderful!! I have wanted to go to calcutta mainly for the trams, but have yet to go, and hope they are still around when i finally do :D reading your post just makes me feel even more tempted!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed EVERYTHING of the post .The BLOG ,THE VIDEO AND THE MUSIC ....

Tonja said...

The observations about the driver were particularly interesting for me. Thanks for sharing.

Daisy said...

It's a wonderful video, Joe. You did a really nice job with it. I enjoyed hearing about your trip.

deeps said...

that seems to have been a real joy ride

Asha said...

beautiful video, the song complements the tempo of the tram. Hope amitabh watches it as you wish, even otherwise it is a video for posterity. I remember seeing this in the movie Barfi.

Asha said...

beautiful video, the song complements the tempo of the tram. Hope amitabh watches it as you wish, even otherwise it is a video for posterity. I remember seeing this in the movie Barfi.

Bikramjit said...

lovely video.. I have been to kolkatta a few times now but never got the chance to ride one of the trams , I have seen them so many times.

next time I am in I will make sure I take a ride

Bikram's

RGB said...

Loved the tram, the video (nicely edited), and how well the song fit the video....Good stuff!

rama said...

Lovely video, and perfect music to go with it. I liked the way you introduced the tapping of the tiles by the lady singing in the tram, the foot and hand movements of the Tram driver, the bell, the fan, and the greenery, everything was perfect.
It certainly brought back memories of so many tram rides of my college days in Calcutta.

rama said...

I shared it in Facebook.

R. Ramesh said...

super boss..makes me feel i should go to cal now...have good friends der..tried a tram years ago..

Ms Sparrow said...

I've never been on a tram but you make it look quite inviting!

Anonymous said...

Calcutta Tramways is by far the cheapest, best and most safest mode of transport in Calcutta and I used it almost everyday during my 25 years in that great city. I lived on Dharamtalla Street and the trams started at 4(four) in the morning even while the corporation department washed the streets that early. The building I lived in used to shake with the rattelling of the trams. At first it bothered me but I got so used to it that it was like rocking me back to sleep.Lovely memories of hustle and bustle of trams, cars honking and people yelling all at the same time. Calcutta Oh! Calcutta (at one time) the paradise of the East.

Haddock said...

Thanks rama :-)

Haddock said...

Hmmm.... 25 years in Dharmatalla St..... well it can't be none other than Ivan.
Aren't you happy that I jostled the memory of your good old days :-)
So they used to wash the roads in Calcutta too. I thought they did that only in Bombay which was a great sight for me when I used to go to fetch the milk in the morning.

TexWisGirl said...

a rather quaint mode of transportation these days. :)

NRIGirl said...

Unfortunately I cannot see "the picture below". Will try later from home computer.

Sowmya said...

Thank you for remembering the charming trams to us all. It is a nice video. Perhaps you should lessen the focus on the drivers foot on bell and replace some of those frames by the sights you saw from the window - was it the howrah bridge? some more of it please...

Anonymous said...

HI JOE
iTS SO NICE TO READ ABOUT THE TRAMS wHAT A WAY TO SEE A CITY
in peace and being able to take in every bit of nature
faith

Kusum Sanu said...

Trams!? must be a lovely experience!

Ghazala Hossain said...

I live in Kolkata and rarely use the tram. It was a pleasure to see the pictures and read about your day :)

Dipanwita said...

joined ur blog as found that we possess some common interest.. :)

Harman said...

love the trams ..never travelled in them but wud surely one day!
love the pictures,, and yes send the CD to big B ..he will like it!
:)

Purba said...

Beautifully captured and the soundtrack is just perfect. Consider sending it to West Bengal tourism as well.

Khushbu Verma said...

Nice Post...Next year around this time I probably be in Calcutta, so it was a really nice read for me :)

Pikes Peak Writers said...

I wasn't aware they were changing the name of Calcutta. Love your captures of the tram against the natural background and the bus driver concentrating. Wasn't able to view the video, but it sounds like you put a lot of work into it.

Shannon at Writing From the Peak

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe...that is a really interesting description..and a fascinating video depicting Calcutta's trams...the music really blended in a perfect manner...especially with the ringing of the bells and other sights and sounds...

Anupama K. Mazumder said...

Am glad you liked the tram experience... I am from Calcutta and your post has made me happy!

www.anucreations.blogspot.in

anthony stemke said...

This was a very interesting post, I enjoyed reading about the tram.

Journey of Life said...

Yeah ... I always like riding on a train. It always brings back nice memory ...
Looked like your trip was definitely worthwhile!

Renu said...

when i was in Calcutta, I loved travelling by tram..as one could see the scenery roadside everything leisurely.

JD said...

Tram rides are always fun..

Richa Singh said...

man i really like this post as already i told u i get transported back to the tram while reading this :)

happy to get connected :)

hope to read more from you!

EM Illustrator said...

I enjoyed reading your post, and thank you for the guidance through your city. Glad you enjoyed the tram trip. Thank you so much for stopping by at my blog.

Have a lovely day!

Eva

Ravindra Deo said...

I love the tram journey. It gives me the sweet memory of my child hood when i used to visit Mumbai and had a joyful experience of traveling in tram. Video is superb and Joe sir you can go in film making line. Again all the best and keep posted.

Haddock said...

Thanks Ravindra for the encouragement :-)
Yes I remember the trams in Bombay which were taken off in the early sixties.

CapriHeer said...

I wish to visit Kolkatta once, loved all your posts. This has increased my eagerness to visit this place... :)

Ann V.J. said...

Very well compiled video and the music chosen for it is apt...I hope you get to pass on the CD to Mr. Amitabh... :)

prakriti said...

Hi uncle ... Your writing tells a story ...its more than the information it provides ...so much soul ....sharing knowledge is easy..thank u for sharing wisdom ....please keep writing :)...prakriti

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Zachs, thank you so much for this beautiful video. The last time I was on a tram was in college 13 years back. I suddenly felt nostalgic and wanted to listen to the comforting sound of tram bells and googled "kolkata tram bell sounds" and that brought me to your article. The thoughts conveyed through the video reminds me of the reasons why I still live in this city which is becoming so strange to many of us.

From an emotional Calcuttan

Haddock said...

Thanks for that straight from the heart comment by the emotional Calcuttan. Many have told me that this is the best video that I made.
Perhaps the emotional Calcuttan has a name or an e mail ?

Maniparna Sengupta Majumder said...

Wonderful post. You have captured the essence of my city so weel... :-) I really wanted to watch the video, but for some reasons unknown, it is not showing up :-(.

Thanks for the Tweet-tag that brought me here on your blog. My blog is on the WP platform and it's difficult to follow a blog on Blogger, but will try onwards... :-) Keep blogging.