The unmissable infrastructural value addition to the cityscape. All of 2.5 km long, built at a cost of Rs 177.73 crore, the AJC Bose Road flyover took more than two years to build – from March 15, 2001 to August 19, 2003 – and the roads below have resembled a holocaust zone. But no one really minds anymore, now that you can zip, zap, zoom over a congested stretch of Calcutta. But the bottlenecks at the two ends remain a downer.
And on the ground, jaywalkers were stopped, censured and slapped fines in a bid to speed up traffic and curb accidents.
The Bengal government meant business, with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee leading from the front — on the Maidan (Infocom 2003) and in Mumbai (roadshow debut) – to woo investment.
Bengal moved up to second rung on the state ladder for domestic investment. That was made possible by the manufacturing industry, but IT remains the focus for the future and Wipro the biggest name that committed to Calcutta this year.
Sector V in Salt Lake generated more than 5,000 new jobs, with IBM, CTS and TCS showing the way.
Talk & travel
The cellphone reigned supreme as the year’s communication tool. The mobile count crossed the 10 lakh mark — close on the heels of landlines, pegged at around 13.5 lakh — and the SMS was closer to countless.
A spurt in international airlines and domestic flights helped Calcutta hop, skip and jump.
The tarmac competed with the tracks as the apex fares caught on. At Howrah station, closed for the first time for two days in September, the Rs 3.25-crore route-relay interlocking system meant to increase capacity groaned to a start.
An effort by Justice Amitava Lala to restrict weekday rallies for the benefit of the Calcutta commuter struck a chord, before the matter was mired in administrative and judicial jousting. But for the few days in October when rally raj was curbed, the wheels turned far smoother and there’s hope yet for the lights turning red for traffic-stopper processions.
The high court, however, laid down the law when it came to giving the Maidan a breather (no fairs, please) and the city air a chance (Bharat Stage II a must). The effects should show next year.
Health at hand
Southern comfort came to Calcutta’s sick-bedside as two healthcare heavyweights set up hubs here. Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals — the 325-bed multi-speciality centre on the EM Bypass with round-the-clock emergency care, a fleet of ambulances linked to a national emergency network, a 72-bed ICU and more — has raised the healthcare bar in town, along with the Rotary Narayana Sankara Nethralaya’s cutting-edge ophthalmic care centre. And Bhagirathi Neotia Woman & Child Care Centre inaugurated a comprehensive neonatal intensive care unit.
In keeping with the global trend of wellness, the “first holistic medical spa in this part of the country” Sanjeeva Spa opened its doors in Vedic Village. A boost to rejuvenation and health tourism.
Sight & sound
Aishwarya Rai spending hours in a Tollygunge mud hut, Kareena Kapoor taking tram rides, Rani Mukherjee having a ball on the Maidan and Raveena Tandon getting into Bengali bridal finery weeks before her marriage… 2003 was as beautiful as it gets. Showbiz went reel big, with Mani Rathnam and his boys — Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi (of the broken leg on our bridge) and Abhishek Bachchan — taking over the city streets. If Mr & Mrs Iyer, Chokher Bali and Abar Aranye shared silver-screen attention, on stage it was A.R. Rahman at Salt Lake Stadium who made just the right sounds. While on sound, Calcutta tuned into FM power, with 24-hour music on four channels.
Fun & food
Forum, the 200,000-sq ft lifestyle mall on Elgin Road was the hangout address of the year. Anchored by Shoppers’ Stop and fired by INOX, it is changing the way the city shops, sips, bites and goes to the movies. The city’s first multiplex, shelves overflowing with the branded stuff and popular food points saw Forum clocking a 20,000-plus footfall on Christmas.
The food trail was piping hot, with quite a few eating-house entrants and a couple of comebacks, too.
Blue Fox reopened in a brand new Middle East-cuisine avatar and Waldorf shifted to Russell Street after the Park Street shutdown. Enjoying pride of place among the new was Oh Calcutta!
Others worth mention and meal included Copper Chimney, Starstruck and the hookah bar in Grain of Salt.
The corner-cafe culture caught on like never before with hours spent at the Café Coffee Days, Baristas and Aqua Javas.