The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big boys missing in action

Twenty-two yards or 21 inches' The choice narrowed to one of the two as Calcutta went into half-holiday mode from Tuesday afternoon.

The exodus stretched from the seat of governance to state-run hospitals, from schools and colleges to courtrooms and private firms, as the city headed either for the Eden Gardens or for the nearest television set.

For once, those running the state — ministers working out of Writers’ Buildings — led from the front, followed closely by their bureaucrats, when it came to lending weight — or voice — to Team India. State urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, who was asked to get off his car by a conscientious cop the last time he went to Eden Gardens to watch an India-West Indies Test, was among the front-runners.

Not far behind was state fire services minister-cum-budding Tollywood actor Pratim Chatterjee. Their colleague in charge of the public works department, Amar Chaudhuri, stayed on till late into the afternoon, before rushing off to the scene of the cricketing showdown, to catch the slog overs of the Australians.

And most of those who could not make it too close to the action — like fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda — were glued to the television sets in office.

Some key administrative offices in the hospitals were no more occupied than those at Writers’. Outgoing Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital superintendent Shyamal Rudra, for one, was in a hurry to leave for Eden Gardens at around 2 pm.

Also taking a healthy break from the recent horror run was the man in charge of medical education in the state, director Chittaranjan Maity. “Yes, I will be there for Team India, cheering every Australian wicket that falls,” he said on Tuesday morning, a good few hours before Ajit Agarkar got Adam Gilchrist.

Cricket fever did not spare the courts, either. The day began with half the normal number of lawyers and litigants.

Shubhra Ray, a teacher fighting a case with her school in Hooghly, was among those who still braved their way to the courts, only to rue her decision not to take the “cricket bandh” seriously. “I should have known,” said Ray, before leaving a near-deserted high court.

The bench was in place, but in the absence of the bar, most afternoon cases fell through. And many of those who did attend court in the morning admitted that it would be easier to head for Eden from ‘work’ rather than home.

The police force — the lucky ones, of course, were on duty at the ground — were all cheering for the Indian XI.

Deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra was at the ground, as were a host of officers-in-charge, like Fayaz Ahmed (Park Street), Asis Sengupta (Maidan) and Jayanta Das (Kalighat).

A few schools — like St Lawrence — gave over early to allow their boys to back the men in blue. At Saltlec, a large IT crowd chose to log on to the TVS Cup, instead of the daily fare. “It’s the match of the season and we all want to be a part of it,” said a techhie, a fair distance away from his 24-by-7 schedule.

And there was stray support for the Aussies, from Down Under, no less. Frank Luksic of IBM, in the city for Infocom 2003, showed his kangaroo colours and rushed from the IT meet venue to a place in the pavilion to root for Ricky Ponting and Co.

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