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Kolkata Tramways

A calendar celebrates Calcutta’s trams

Photographer trains lens on endangered features of city

Chandrima S. Bhattacharya | Published 04.01.24, 05:58 AM
The January 2024 page of the calendar shows a tram moving along Wellington Square last year

The January 2024 page of the calendar shows a tram moving along Wellington Square last year

Sitting in a tram, passing through Shibpur or Burrabazar, was like passing through a living emporium, says photographer Bijoy Chowdhury. Like every year, for 2024, too, he has brought out a calendar, and this year the subject is Kolkata’s trams.

Chowdhury’s subjects for his calendars, which he has been making for the last 20 years or so, have always been the distinguishing features of the city, especially those that are endangered. Previous themes included the disappearing single-screen cinema halls, Sudder Street, street bands, music stores and letter-boxes.

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Trams are special to Chowdhury. “I am addicted to trams,” he says. Even as the number of trams goes down in the city, he hops on to one often just for the ride. “If you can find a seat on the left side of an old first class tram car, one in a row of single seats with windows without bars, you get an unfettered view of the city, as if you are watching cinema. Imagine going through Chitpur in a tram,” he says. “But there are no trams in Chitpur now.”

Tram routes are few in the city currently. The West Bengal Transport Corporation mentions six.

“Though worldwide in many cities, such as Amsterdam, trams are the preferred mode of transport.” Environmentally, they are ideal as vehicles of mass transport. But these are well-known facts here, and well-ignored.

On a more hopeful note, Chowdhury refers to the fact that Calcutta High Court recently directed the state government to constitute a committee to examine how tram services can be preserved. It is important to remember that trams are a part of the city’s heritage.

Chowdhury’s table calendar is shot in black and white. The images are evocative and open up the city, by presenting it along the tram routes that have lost their familiarity. The last image is of tram cables intersecting against the sky, and a bird flying. It is a forlorn and beautiful image.

Hopefully, the trams will carry on, says Chowdhury.

The number of calendars Chowdhury makes is limited. They are not for sale. “Some things should remain entirely one’s own creation,” he says.

Last updated on 04.01.24, 09:48 AM
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