Calcutta extended its streak of Celsius lows to a record sixth day but the weekend might see the comeback of temperatures more in tune with winter in the city.
Friday’s minimum temperature rose marginally to 10.4 degrees Celsius from Wednesday’s 10, the lowest December reading in 28 years, but the maximum stayed seven degrees below normal at 19.1.
The streak of subnormal maximum temperatures had started with 16.2 degrees Celsius on Sunday, 11 notches below normal.
Fog and the chilly northerly breeze have been the record-busting winter’s allies, one keeping the sun out of the equation for most of the day and the other forcing the Celsius down.
Never in the past decade has the maximum temperature in Calcutta been five or more degrees below normal for six consecutive December days. The average maximum temperature at this time of the year is normally 26 degrees. In the last six days, the average has been 18.7 degrees, the lowest of the decade in the same time period by a long way (see chart).
Temperatures are likely to gradually rise to normal levels over the next few days. “There is a western disturbance over Rajasthan that will interfere in the flow of the northerly wind,” a Met official said.
The Friday fog delayed several morning flights and trains. No flight took off or landed before 8.30am.
Around 20 flights were stranded on the runway for hours and two bound for the city were diverted. Qatar Airways’ flight from Doha was diverted to Yangon while IndiGo’s Bangkok-Calcutta flight was diverted to Nagpur.
The chill-laden north wind seems to have done what the promised winds of change couldn’t: transform Calcutta into a bit like London. The maximum
temperature has been at least five degrees below normal over the last six days, temperate by the standards of the city Mamata Banerjee aspires to replicate
but chilly enough to make the Calcuttan adopt Londoner habits. Morning walkers who would wake up before the alarm rang are routinely reaching for the
snooze button, motorcyclists are developing “morning sickness”, fish and vegetable markets are less crowded and usually obedient children are suddenly
refusing to bathe. Metro went around the city to find out how Calcuttans have been adjusting to the coldest December in decades.
Rabindra Sarobar, usually buzzing
with morning walkers of all ages,
looks sparse at 6.32 on Friday
morning, having lost many of its
regulars to the comfort of a warm
blanket. “My son, who usually
accompanies me here at 6 every
morning, is still in bed,”
said 69-year-old Swapan Kumar Basu,
one of the few who braved the chill for
a brisk walk by the Lakes.
Footfall Down by around
20 per cent.
Dress code Heavy-duty. Monkey
caps are back with a vengeance, so
are thick woollen mufflers and gloves.
Fish and (below) vegetable hawkers at north Calcutta’s
Maniktala Bazar await customers around 7.45am on
Friday, by which time the place is normally a hive of
activity. “The north Calcutta bhadralok is not one to
easily give up his habit of fish and vegetable shopping in
the morning. But such has been the cold that we have had hardly any people coming in before 8am over the past few days,” said Prabhat Das, the secretary of the Maniktala Bazar Byabasayik Samity.
Shopper strategy Buy in bulk so that you
don’t have to do the morning sortie every day.
Chill-out zone A bonfire with shopkeepers
huddled around it, holding glassfuls of piping hot tea.
Early risers keep the chill at bay with steaming tea outside Maharaj tea shop near Lake Road. “We have been serving at least 400 cups of tea
in the morning. Usually, it is around 300,” said owner Vinod Prasad.
Pop picks Regular tea at Rs 5 a standard clay cup and masala tea for Rs 8.
Tea topper Call centre employee Pratik Chakraborty, who stopped by despite a tiring night shift because “a good cup of tea on a
chilly morning is something I can’t resist”.
A motorcyclist covered from head to toe on Sarat Bose Road at 8.26am on Friday.
“I will freeze if I ride my bike. So I have decided to take the Metro till the weather is a little warmer,” said Soumya Lahiri, headed for his Salt Lake
Wheel count Around
40 per cent less, say cops.
RIDER GEAR Thermal
inners with windcheater thrown in.
CRUMBS OF COMFORT
The queue outside Peter Cat on Park Street at 8.18pm on Thursday proves that the one thing a Celsius dip can’t do is stop the Calcuttan from eating out. “This is the only time they feel like they are having dinner in London!” quipped Stephen Hughes, manager of Bar-B-Q, across the street.
Cooking time Hansel Bergeon, the manager of Peter Cat, says the minimum waiting time on a weekday is half an hour. On weekends, the wait could be double.
High spirits At Olypub, rum seems to be the most popular antidote to Celsius-induced shivers. “Come rain or shine, our bar is always full. When it’s cold like this, it is overcrowded!” said A.Haq, who has been managing the watering hole for over 40 years.