Little Arsalan Khan isn’t worried about reaching Red Road half an hour earlier than usual for Id namaz, what’s bothering him is the prospect of an unusually hot day spoiling his post-prayer plans with friends.
“I wish the weather was cooler with Id just round the corner. My mother will surely stop me from stepping out of home once we return from namaz if the sun beats down the way it did today,” the seven-year-old from Park Circus said.
The long overdue shower on Thursday evening that the Met office had said might lead to more rain and cooler weather proved just an interval in a season of weather abnormalities. Friday’s maximum temperature of 34.1 degrees Celsius was just a notch below Thursday’s and five points higher than the reading this day last year.
The forecast isn’t comforting either. The city will have more of sunshine and less of rain over the next 48 hours leading to Id, the Met office said.
Namaz on Red Road, the largest Id-ul-Fitr congregation in the city, has been advanced by half an hour because the festival has entered the summer phase this year. The Ramazan month starts 10 days ahead with each passing year.
Ekbalpore resident Sk. Moinuddin is praying for an overcast sky on the day of Id so that people can enjoy the festival without sweating over the weather. “On Friday, it was quite hot even at 8.30am,” he said.
The Khilafat Committee that is responsible for the Id arrangements on Red Road has decided to advance the prayers by 30 minutes in keeping with the weather conditions.
“This year, namaz on Red Road will be offered at 8.30am,” confirmed Shakir Randerian, the president of the committee.
“Since the late 90s, Id was being celebrated in cooler weather. That allowed us to start the prayers at 9am. Now that the weather is hot, we have had to advance the timing.”
People start arriving on Red Road around 6am, spending up to five hours in the sun. If the temperature stays high like on Friday, the heat could take its toll.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has confirmed her presence at the Red Road namaz. “We sent an invitation to the chief minister and she has accepted,” Randerian said.
The Khilafat Committee is making arrangements for a congregation of 2.5 to 3 lakh people. “Every year the number overshoots (our estimate) by at least a lakh,” president Randerian said.
The estimated size of the congregation is, of course, less of a worry than the weather forecast.
“Rainfall activity will decrease in south Bengal, including Calcutta, over the next 48 hours because the cyclonic circulation over the Bengal-Odisha coast in weakening,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore.
“The wind system that had resulted in heavy moisture incursion from the Bay of Bengal has moved along. The monsoon trough that was passing through Calcutta till Thursday has also started to shift west,” he added.
Worse, the day temperature could rise further. The discomfort index, or the cumulative effect of heat and humidity on the human body, was 62 degrees Celsius on Friday, seven degrees above normal.
“It could get more uncomfortable over the next day or two,” a weather scientist warned.