Prithwish Roy and wife Rima were already carrying a large bag when they got off a taxi at Gariahat for shopping on Sunday afternoon — it contained two umbrellas for themselves and a pair of waterproofs for their four-year-old twins Rupsagari and Deepsagari.
The couple from Jadavpur, both in their early 30s, were determined not to let the rain forecast spoil their last chance to complete their festive shopping.
The couple were, of course, not alone in this rebellion against rain. Malls and markets across the city recorded massive footfalls from afternoon till late evening with long queues of Sunday shoppers eager to lay their hands on that dupatta to pair with the Navami churidar or the Kolhapuri to go with the Ashtami kurta.
Calcutta may have escaped a shower on Sunday but the weather office says there is still a strong possibility of rainfall in the city over the next two to three days because of an “active monsoon trough” that has triggered heavy incursion of moisture from the Bay of Bengal.
“On Sunday, the weather was part cloudy. There was moisture incursion but not enough to cause rainfall. The threat of rain, however, remains as the monsoon trough has moved to the north of the state and cloud formation will continue,” said a senior official at the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore.
The good news is that there is no downpour on the radar yet for the Puja days, beginning Sashthi on Thursday. The low-pressure area that weather scientists had feared has been delayed, if not blown away.
“We read in the papers that rain was likely, so we came armed with raincoats and umbrellas. We have quite a few items still left to buy as I was out of town and there will be no time later because I have office every day between now and Saptami,” said Prithwish, 32, who works for a private company.
Software engineer Vivek Singh of Liluah too was prepared to defy the rain. He hired a car to ferry his parents, sister and brother-in-law to South City Mall and back.
The number of shoppers swelled apparently because many of them had to abort their buy-buy plans last Saturday because of the 84.8mm of rain that lashed the city.
“I had planned to shop yesterday but it was raining so heavily in the afternoon that I postponed it to Sunday,” said Shree Kumar Nair, director of an engineering and polytechnic college in Durgapur.
According to police, there were about 20,000 shoppers in the New Market area alone at 5pm. Every time the rope barricade was lowered at the JL Nehru Road crossing, hundreds of shoppers would cross the street. Ditto at the Gariahat intersection.
Barricades had been put up on the road to prevent people from spilling onto the main thoroughfare. Thanks to the sea of shoppers, a straight walk from JL Nehru Road to Stuart Hogg Market down Lindsay Street took over 10 minutes, a distance that one would cover in two minutes on a normal day.
In the evening, motorists took over half-an-hour to travel the kilometre-long stretch from Triangular Park to Bijon Setu.
At South City Mall, guardrails were placed to segregate vehicles entering the driveway from pedestrians on the walkway. The queues of people trying to enter, especially the one for women, reached the driveway.
There were also long queues in front of the trial rooms and billing counters. A popular retail garments chain allowed potential buyers to take only two clothes inside the trial room instead of the usual three to counter the rush.
“I had to wait for nearly half-an-hour to try out a pair of denims,” said Sreecheta Mukherjee, 25, a resident of Behala out shopping with her friends at South City Mall.
Metro rail services started at noon on Sunday, two hours before the usual starting time. Till 7pm, the footfall was 2.78 lakh, against an average of 2.25 lakh on a Sunday.