CALCUTTA AT WORK
A waterlogged street in Sector V, wife at the wheel, husband pushing the car' to their common destination, an IT office.
Come hell or high water (read bandh or rain), Calcutta is learning to walk or wade to work. Gone are the days when 'rainy days' meant poor-attendance days at the workplace, and muri and khichuri at home.
Riding a 24x7 wave, the city is fast swiping in a new work culture.
The July 19 downpour was a case in metamorphosis point. In chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's showpiece tech township, attendance at major IT companies was no less than 75 per cent, as techies braved the dawn downpour and the civic sloth to log in.
Suman Ray, assistant project manager with IT major Cognizant Technology Solutions sums it up: 'With the terrible waterlogging on Wednesday, attendance could have been affected, but it wasn't; I think that speaks volumes about the emerging professionalism in the city.'
A professionalism that stretched from pinstripes to dhotis, from new-age technology to new-age politics. The Indian Chamber of Commerce's watershed session with CPM secretary Biman Bose was anything but a washout. 'The meeting with Biman Bose started sharp at 11.30 am and most of the executive committee members turned up on time,' confirms chamber secretary-general Nazeeb Arif.
From a city reluctant to work to a city reluctant to stay home on a rainy day ' hail, Brand Bengal.
CALCUTTA AT PLAY
All work and no play would surely make a dull city, especially on a day dank and dark. Earlier, a fun trip to New Market or Gariahat through overflowing drains and traffic snarls was hardly a happy thought. But today, footfall at hangouts like mall and multiplex hardly take a hit on a wet day.
'People refuse to stay indoors nowadays even if it rains hard. Once they manage to get to a mall, they can shut out the world (waterlogged and chaotic) and spend hours browsing and buying, eating and watching movies,' observes Aditya Mehta, spokesperson for Forum on Elgin Road. 'On Wednesday there was a slight fall in footfall in the early hours but as the day progressed people started pouring in, especially to the food court.'
At multiplexes, the footfall was in fact a flood. At the two INOX properties of Forum and City Centre, a total occupancy of 6,500 was recorded on July 19, around 2,000 more than an average Wednesday. The City Centre property did particularly fantastic business, notching up 1,500 more entries than normal. Clearly, a day at the movies is a great way to beat rainy-day blues.
If the spirit during the day was not dampened, could the night possibly be dull' The attendance at the dining table and the dance floor was like any other good week at restaurants and nightclubs, despite the skies finally opening up. For many, it was just another night to party, while for some it was the drive to end a dull day on a bright note, with dinner and dance.
Deadlines were met in offices and fun flowed at malls and multiplexes, but the city's infrastructure played spoilsport and brought back the worst memories of waterlogging. Life came to a standstill in several parts of north, central and east Calcutta, from Cossipore to Kasba. With the water taking more than a day to recede at some points, several residents were left high and dry (or, rather wet).
'Normally, the water levels come down in two to three hours, but this civic body's failure in de-silting sewer lines compounded the problem,' alleges Mala Roy, former mayoral council member (drainage).
With downpour and drizzle, waterlogged streets and clogged drains comes a major malaise of the monsoon ' a deluge of diseases. Doctors say the count of patients afflicted by waterborne diseases like gastro-enteritis, cholera, viral hepatitis, typhoid and blood dysentery has been rising steadily.
'This season, malaria and dengue cases have also been high. Most are being treated from the outpatient department but some are requiring hospitalisation,' says critical care specialist Subrata Maitra.
Keeping paediatricians busy and parents bothered are viral fever, cough and cold, and acute respiratory infection. 'This year a new viral disease is spreading like an epidemic among children,' warns Apurba Ghosh, director, Institute of Child Health. The symptoms: high fever, body ache, cough and cold.
The dos and don'ts from the doctor's desk: avoid drinking water outside, keep boiled water for children, say no to cut fruits, visit a physician and go for a blood test immediately after fever is detected.
If you listen to the rhythm of the raindrops before meal time, chances are it will chant out ilish. There is no ignoring the cloud command, so, hilsa it is ' at home and away. The restaurants are all busy cooking up exciting hilsa preparations and the Calcuttan is busy digging into the delicacies. From the utterly unmissable Bengali specialities like Ilish Bhapa, Sorshe Ilish, Ilish Paturi and Doi Ilish to exotic Continental innovations like Hilsa Saint-Germain to Hilsa con Aceitunas y Alcaparras, the fish fare is as good as it gets, from tables star to neighbourhood.
'Hilsa is no longer a delicacy to be enjoyed only at home. For nuclear families, time is a major constraint. Today, it is simpler to satisfy a hilsa craving at restaurants where traditional varieties and innovations are served on a platter,' says Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta of Kewpie's.
The Calcuttan's first F-passion of the season spent at the dining table, we move on to the latest F-passion on town: fashion. The girls can check out this must-have list for the monsoon: turned-up denims, knee-length printed skirts, easy tees, comfy chappals, waterproof make-up (please skip the smudgy kohl) and chiffon saris. If it's that time of the year when you can show off your shapely legs in a short skirt or a capri, it's also the time to romance those sensuous chiffons, in trademark Yash Chopra-heroine style.
The guys can also stride out in their rubber chappals in style and not be frowned at.
Final fashion word: junk the good ol' sturdy black umbrella; throw away the mouldy raincoat. Pick up a transparent base raincoat with psychedelic polka dots and a square see-through umbrella with bright florals.
Going back to where we began, Calcutta is now a city on the move, but can the civic authorities please do their bit not to slam the brakes'
We asked the authorities whether Calcuttans would keep drowning with every downpour (which in millimetre of rainfall terms is but a drizzle compared to what marooned Mumbaikars last year)'
The official answer is, no. Today's pain will be tomorrow's gain, after all! According to municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay, the situation will see a sea change once the Rs 1,800-crore Asian Development Bank (ADB) project to lay proper drainage and sewerage pipes in the eastern, southern and northern fringes of the city is complete.
'What Calcuttans are facing during the monsoon today is a transitional trauma. The approval for the ADB project has already come from Manila and its deadline is 2008. We expect things to improve once the project is through,' assures Bandyopadhyay.
Should we say cheers or go glug glug'