Calcutta shivered on its coldest day in 14 years as the mercury dipped to 9.4 degrees Celsius, five degrees below normal.
R.N. Goldar, deputy director-general of the regional meteorological centre at Alipore, confirmed on Wednesday that the city was “in the grip of a cold wave”, adding that the mercury had last dipped lower, to 8.4 degrees, in January 1989. The lowest temperature recorded in Calcutta was 6.7 degrees in 1899.
“The sky has cleared since last night and the North Wind is blowing unhindered from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, at about 25 kph,” said Goldar, adding that the minimum temperature was expected to “rise slightly” on Thursday due to an increase in moisture content.
But the weatherman’s word of a ‘slight’ rise is hardly enough to stem the rush for warm gadgets and garments in city stores, where supply is struggling to cope with demand.
Saswati Ganguly went to five big electronics shops in south Calcutta in search of room heaters on Tuesday, only to be told each time: “Everything is sold out and new stocks are not available.”
Saibal Ganguly of Ganguly Electronics, on Rashbehari Avenue, one of the shops at which Saswati drew a blank, says: “In the first two weeks of January, we have already sold 200 heaters, more than double the figure of last year. Our suppliers can’t cope, because the winter is as severe in the rest of the country.”
The popular store brought in 10 heaters on Wednesday morning and sold them within an hour. “The Rs 1,400 Bajaj and Usha blow-heaters are going as fast as the Rs 200 unbranded rod heaters,” says Ganguly.
January is when manufacturers wrap up their winter act, clearing stocks and selling off the remaining inventories, explains Sanjay Sinha of Zenith Electronics, on Ezra Street. “This year, we have sold twice the number of heaters we normally do. We are now completely out of stock, with no indication of when more will come in. We have had to turn away about 90 customers a day this week. At one point, in 40 minutes, we sold around 80 heaters, costing between Rs 150 and Rs 2,500,” adds Sinha.
Woollens, fleeces and jackets, too, are disappearing off the shelves. “We usually stop getting in new stuff from December,” says Suresh Wadhwani, manager of the Pantaloons store at 22, Camac Street. “But this year, we are constantly restocking. Sales of woollens have gone up by nearly 50 per cent and fleeces have sold out thrice, before we could get more. Even thermals, which Calcuttans don’t usually wear, are really selling.”