Darkness descended on Calcutta two hours early on Friday and chief minister Mamata Banerjee echoed the fears of every Calcuttan: “Don’t know if this weather will prevail.”
“Durga Puja is the main festival of Bengal and I know everyone is worried,” she said at the packed Netaji Indoor Stadium where Puja organisers had congregated for a meeting with the state administration.
“The organisers are glum and so are the revellers. You must be wondering when we would complete our pandals, when we would put the lights,” Mamata said.
Claps of thunder and streaks of lightning were jetting across a dark sky outside as she spoke.
At New Market, people with bag upon shopping bag ran for shades to shelter their buys from the rain.
“These days, every season is getting pushed back. The monsoon… the winter,” Mamata said. “We want a Puja without rain. But it is not in our hands.”
The heavy rain was the result of a cyclonic circulation over the Bay of Bengal, which rushed in towards the coast on Friday after hovering over the sea for the past three days.
The system is tipped to bring in more rain on Saturday.
The downpour started with a bang around 4.15pm and continued steadily for 45 minutes across the city.
Some places, especially those in the south-east such as Behala, recorded the most.
Behala got 62mm of rainfall, according to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation figures recorded at its drainage pumping stations. Dhapa Lockgate accounted for 21.4mm, the lowest of the day.
Many had to abandon their shopping midway and run for cover while those who arrived late postponed their plans by an hour.
“I have two more shirts and a pair of shoes to buy but can’t say when this rain will stop,” said 23-year-old Jadavpur resident Ayush Roy shopping on Lindsay Street.
Ranojoy Basu, 19, of Garia said he could not get out of the Esplanade Metro station because of the rain. “The weather was fine when I had left...” he shrugged.
Several stretches of Maniktala Main Road, Amherst Street, Amherst Row, Thantania and Central Avenue were under ankle-deep water after the downpour.
The sky turned from sunny to dark in just about an hour as a heavy cloud cover completely blocked the sun.
“All of a sudden darkness descended and I could not see beyond 100m. I turned the headlights on…still it was difficult to drive,” said Phulbagan resident Sourabh Guha, who drove down the EM Bypass when it started to pour.
The forecast says heavy rain on Saturday with the cyclonic circulation drawing more moisture from the sea.
“The circulation has reached a height of 5.8km on Friday from 1.5km the day before. It is getting close to the Bengal seashore. That’s why Calcutta is expected to get more rain on Saturday,” said a senior official of the weather office at Alipore.
Wet weather is likely to give way to sunshine on Sunday afternoon because the system will hit land by then.
New Market, which has been bursting at the seams, was almost deserted an hour after the first spell. By the time the second round picked up pace around 6.30pm, the shops hung out the “closed” sign.
Friday started on a sunny note and the maximum temperature reached 34.7 degrees Celsius around afternoon but rain brought it down to 25.4 degrees at 5.30pm.