The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bash & beep at midnight

What was Calcutta up to when the clock struck 12 to ring out 2002 and ring in 2003' Partying, calling and SMSing.

And where was Calcutta when the clock struck 12 to ring out 2002 and ring in 2003' Here, there and everywhere. From Space Circle, near the airport, to Tollygunge Club, near the southern end of the Metro tracks, it was music, masti and midnight meals.

As far as the numbers game goes, the beep of cellphones beat all revelry rings hollow. Close to a million calls in an hour, over two million messages since midnight — it was traffic trouble like never before, sending Hutch and Airtel into a tizzy.

Both cell operators confirmed a “temporary congestion” in the network in several pockets, with usage far outstripping base-station capacity.

“We have a capacity of handling around 1.5 lakh messages an hour, but the traffic was around five times higher between midnight and 1 am. Besides, there was a record number of phone calls made during the hour,” said Deepak Gulati, CEO, Airtel, the morning after.

“The congestion and the failure in connecting was felt at places like Park Street, but at sites like Tolly Club, there was no such problem,” added Sunil Sood, chief operating officer, Hutch.

If Park Street was the most congested party point, it was certainly not the preferred one for the city elite. The best line-up — and most sumptuous spread — belonged to the brand new Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers, as the five-star destination on the E.M. Bypass hosted the biggest bash of 31st.

It was everything under one roof, with something for everyone — supermodels Fleur Xavier and Aditi Gowitrikar leading the ramp strut, showing off Bengal’s designer stuff; Gary Lawyer and Sharon Prabhakar belting out high-voltage numbers; Kamal Sidhu as emcee; Virginia the belly-dancer from London; seven restaurants serving up signature cuisine under the supervision of super chef Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi — forcing Governor Viren J. Shah and the city’s who’s who to stay put till way into ’03.

Those who did not pass through the sparkling portals of Sonar Bangla headed south to Tolly and CC&FC, or north-east to Space Circle. At Tolly, it was Euphoria all the way, as Palash Sen fans rocked the night away, with the car crawl reaching beyond the club gates.

CC&FC was crowded, yet chilled out, with “over 3,000 party animals” swaying to Krosswindz in the air-conditioned shamiana. Completing the club circuit were Saturday and Calcutta, with loyalists and passers-through.

At another end of town, it was space jam at Space Circle with around 6,000 feet stepping on each other’s toes inside the skydrome to the blast of Bombay Vikings.

Conspicuous by their absence on the last night of 2002 were the screen stars, shining bright behind closed doors at private dos.

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