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   When I think of the present diesel and petrol prices... (February 20, 1986)

When I think of the present diesel and petrol prices, wish the BEST trams had been retained. In their days, they were the poor man’s transport, and, with more and more people becoming poor, they would have been everybody’s transport by now.

I also admired the organisation behind the old tram services, a network covering the entire city. In those days, the city ended at King’s Circle, Sion was a distant suburb and Chembur did not exist.

Electric House was the main tram depot, the other was at Foras Road. From these, every morning, the trams all washed and clean, smiling conductors, drivers with putees tied around their legs, would set out for their hundreds of journeys across the city. The drivers wore putees because they drove standing and they were supposed to help their leg muscles from tiring. They also had a bell, a sort of clanger attached to the floorboard, which they rang by stamping their foot on it.

The tram routes all had numbers, as bus routes have now. The bus routes then had letter from the alphabet. (No. 126 was ‘C’ route).

I knew every tram route by heart. The “O” number tram ran between Sassoon Dock and Museum. At Museum, it would make a circle round the traffic is land, then return to Sassoon Dock. The intervening stops were Electirc House, Cusrow Baug and Colaba Bazar. At one stage, the Cusrow Baug stop was dropped, and the entire Parsi community, or that part which resided in Cusrow Baug, wrote angry letter to the Jam-e-Jamshed. And the Jam-e-Jamshed being a powerful paper then, the BEST resumed the stop.

Only two routes originated from Electric House, No. 16, which proceeded to Gowalia Tank, and No. 13, which went to Tardeo, both via Crawford Market, Abdul Rehman Street, Pydhonie and Corner of Grant Road.

All the other trams started from Museum. You could sit downstairs or upstairs, in the front of the rear carriage, on a sort of a platform between the two carriages, if you were a woman, on one of the four seats reserved for women, if you were travelling by No. 5, on cushioned seats.

The No. 5 tram, from Museum to King’s Circle, was the latest acquisition of the BEST, it had doors at the entrance, so that passengers could not board it in motion, and it moved with a deep rumble instead of the loud rattle of the other trams. It was said that one day all of Bombay would have trams like the No. 5. Instead, they removed all the trams, then removed the overhead electric cables, them dug out the tram tracks from the roads.

Sometimes I wish they would bring the trams back. Perhaps, we are moving in the wrong direction…forward, when we should actually be moving backwards.

 
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