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On, off & all that

PATH & POTHOLE

This was the year of new roads and old potholes, concrete and crater, speed lanes and traffic stoppers. With every stretch created or repaired, there was a cave-in, a dig-up or plain decay.

Just before the Pujas, civic engineers said over 900 km of city roadspace was potholed. All added up, the craters would cover 3.5 lakh sq m, forcing cars to moonwalk.

On the bright side of the street, this year also saw the Gariahat Road being concretised and the AJC Bose Road and Lake Gardens flyovers providing a fast-track option at vital stretches. But here, too, myopic planning has created fresh bottlenecks.

Nothing summed up the roller-coaster ride better than the 11.6-km stretch cutting right through Rajarhat and straight to the airport. Within months of being crowned top track, whole sections have sunk into the ground.

TECH & TARGETS

What does road repair have to do with the richest man in India' Lots, if Azim Premji is visiting Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's dream bastion (no, not Writers', but Saltlec).

It was a big bang year for Bhattacharjee's blue-eyed information technology (IT) sector, with the high point being the inauguration of Wipro's centre in Sector V.

Then there was Mukesh Ambani talking about basing a bit of his tech dreams in Bengal. But if the Ambani big brother first has to get his own house in order, so do Manab Mukherjee and Co. Just take a trip to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Gurgaon or Chandigarh to find out why.

WILL & WAR

How does a city grab the mindshare of the moneyed class' With a scandal, of course.

A will showed the way for Calcutta to dominate national business gossip (till, of course, A dislodged B). The Birla battle over R.S. Lodha's claims not only dragged the affairs of the first family of Indian business into the public domain. It also forced legal eagles like Ram Jethmalani, son Mahesh and Arun Jaitley to land in Calcutta High Court, at regular intervals.

GRUB & GRUMBLE

There are restaurants stirring up a storm around the city at an almost alarming rate. Every mall and quiet street corner has them, the city centre, and City Centre, too. New restaurants (La Cucina, Orko's, KK's Fusion, Marco Polo in China, Chicky's, Sourav's'), expansion and renovation (Mainland China and Flurys), coffee shops brewing at every corner'

There's something cooking everywhere and there's someone going everywhere, but please don't expect experiments with culinary truths.

Most kitchens have chosen to play it safe (read lots of Indian and Chinese, with a little bit of this and that) or display a singular lack of thought for taste. And for a city said to be finally taking the fast track, please can we see some fast food' KFC may soon be joining the new Pizza Hut at City Centre, but then, where's the Big Mac'

LOUNGE & LIMBO

Calcutta, they say, is in the grip of lounge culture. The new heir to the nightlife throne is almost set to knee out the reigning nightlife king, the disco. It all started with one little corner in Shisha, but now you can lounge around at several destinations, dotting the city entertainment map.

But don't step out in your pyjamas and kick off your dancing shoes, just yet. For, the lounges we love to love are, going strictly by the book, not lounges. Internationally, the lounge is essentially a place where there is 'no dance floor', has 'very soft music', and is 'somewhere people can relax over a drink'.

Here, the party crowd only feels at home where it can lounge one moment and limbo the other. So, lounge we will, with a dance floor a foot's length away!

BEAM & BLOCK

There were never more channels to surf and never more beam blocks to watch out for. If STAR One, Animax, Smile, Hungama, Discovery Travel & Living led the charge of the channels this year, chances are most ' if not none ' didn't make it to your screens.

And not just new channels, perennial favourites like sports or soaps, too, did the disappearing act, thanks to constant cable spats.

The consumer kept on paying his cable bill, but was denied his viewership due, from Tendulkar to Tulsi.

BRIGHT & BLUE

Caramel popcorn, digital Dolby and Shah Rukh Khan. The multiplex-ruled this year as single-screen theatres fought a losing battle. If there's Garfield at the cineplex, there's live fat cats at the standalone halls; if there's stadium seating here, there are broken chairs there'

In screen terms, '04 was brighter than ever before and, in the Calcutta of stark contrasts, also more dismal than ever before.

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