I got on the tram, reached into my pocket for the fare and looked for the conductor. I extended my hand to give him the fare. He was shocked. He studied me for half a minute or so, and said, "Aapni nischoy Kolkata e thanken na. (You dont live in Kolkata for sure)"
I almost fell of my seat. Was this guy a facereader or something? A tantrik, perhaps? I could only muster a "huh?"
"Ke u tram e uthe shonge shonge taka bar kore na ki! (Does anyone get on a tram and immediately pay the fare!)"
In my three years of living in Kolkata, I fooled each person I met into believing am a Bong, thanks to the Bangla I picked up. But, then, the tramwala had insight. And I hadnt, thank God, absorbed the many push-shove-grab ways of the Kolkatan.
Kolkatans avoid paying the fare till the last moment. Best would be to pay it just before getting off. It's as if they are unwilling to let go of the warmth of the coins for that extra moment.
The queues are not linear here; they are semi-circular. When a person reaches the head of a queue, the 3-4 people behind him will quickly cluster around and lean on him.
People cross the street after making sure the signal is green. After all, they have that hand raised up, you see, that will ward off all evil, even a ten-ton truck.
Yesterday, I'd been to Shyambazar to buy new clothes for the thakur. My ferocious bargaining had to come to an end, thanks to a six-year-old. I just watched with my mouth open and meekly made way as he pushed and shoved and led his mother to the stall.
The tramwala would be proud of him.