| Revellers thronged Park Street on the last night of 2003, and well into the first morning of the New Year. (Below) Decorations at Forum, the lifestyle mall on Elgin Road. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal and Amit Datta
The last day of the year was split into two — planning for the party and then partying well into 2004. From food to films, SMS greetings to gulping down gallons, hanging out at the funspots to crash-landing on clubs, all Calcuttans wanted on December 31, 2003 was – everything. Metro tracks a slice of the action.
On a platter
Eating out was clearly the pop pick, with all eating houses worth their grain of salt — and sugar — serving to full capacity.
More than 1,000 people gorged on the buffet spread at Grain of Salt, the fusion-food fine-dining outlet inside 22, Camac Street. A sizeable crowd, mostly youngsters, took a deep drag at Shisha, eastern India’s first hookah bar. Despite the clamour for advance bookings, the restaurant set aside around 35 per cent covers for walk-in clientele.
Mainland China, the Oriental cuisine haunt on Gurusaday Road, also saw a mad rush of New Year’s eve diners. Operating with 220 covers, including the 80-seater basement banquet hall, it was ready for “four rotations”, serving its patent prawn-crab-fish-chicken buffet.
Bar-B-Q, the highest-selling foodstop on Park Street, had people queuing up for their favourites. The 375-cover Cantonese-Szechwan-Indian restaurant served more than 1,200 foodies, with “a 30 per cent jump in walk-ins”.
Western was the way forward for Bengali kitchen Kewpie’s in Elgin Lane, with a sold-out Baradin Festival of prawn cocktails and duck vindaloo.
Liquor flowed freely, and holding pole position this 31st night was whisky, followed by rum and vodka, not to forget beer, the frothy favourite round the year, the Bacardi Breezers and the cocktails. But no private party was complete without a selection of wine, fast catching Calcutta’s fancy, as splurge became the sole urge.
If the night was for the club-hopping crush, the day was meant for open spaces. Iceland was a huge draw both at Nicco Park and Fun City, with the Salt Lake haunt recording a 30,000-plus footfall by evening. The dance floor on ice at Fun City also drew a steady stream of festive crowds through the day. If nothing else, it was a walk down Park Street before the madness began.
INOX, the city’s hottest rendezvous for moviegoers, recorded 13 houseful shows on the final Wednesday of 2003. And it was a real mix ’n’ match. Morning showed the day with Finding Nemo calling in the kids. Then, the stage was left to the biggies — Kal Ho Naa Ho and LOC Kargil. All six shows of the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer and the J.P. Dutta blockbuster were sold out. Even Sunjay Dutt packed them in for Munna Bhai MBBS. Bengali, too, found favour for the year’s last farewell, with Feluda’s Bombaiyer Bombetey and Aishwarya Rai’s Chokher Bali. Footfall at the four-screen multiplex topped 3,700, with a palmist and a fortune-teller on hand to crystal-ball gaze into 2004.
A crore and more
MusicWorld became the first music store in the country to cross Rs 1 crore in 30 days. The Park Street store hit the magic sales figure for the month of December 2003, with hours to spare for 2004, as close to 10,000 New Year’s eve revellers trooped in, forcing the shop shut by late evening.
Techies at work
It was business as usual for most IT companies at Saltlec, with a host of critical operations in progress. But the big boys at their computers adopted the Imran Khan mantra to play the dance floor at night, after a hard day’s work.
The 24x7 call-centre industry, however, fell remarkably silent, as the US-driven industry that had slipped into holiday mode from Christmas all but pulled the plug on Wednesday. A skeletal staff will see things through till the weekend.
What’s New Year without the SMS beep' Cell operators worked overtime to handle excess traffic from 31st evening with messages and voice traffic jumping eight to 10 times. While Airtel scaled up network capacity, Hutch stopped its “message delivery report” service for the night to reduce clogging.
| Skinny Alley at Tollygunge Club.
Finally, after the clock crossed 9, it was time. The Telegraph 31st Nite bashes in town was where all the action was. At the Calcutta Swimming Club, Shayne Hyrapiet was the voice of the evening, while all eyes were on the Australian flirt models.
At Space Circle, family fave Shaan was the star of the show. At another end of town, Tollygunge Club was rocked by Skinny Alley, Hip Pocket and Geno Banks . At CC&FC, the temperatures soared with Fahrenheit from Mumbai. Across the street at Dalhousie Institute, old favourites Pam Crain, father-daughter duo Don and Sonia Saigal and the band Blue Mist shared the spotlight. Shiva set the mood for an open-air barbecue at Calcutta Club, while at Saturday Club, belly dancer Belinda was the attention-grabber.
At the Oberoi Grand, Gary Lawyer held sway, while at Taj Bengal, DJ Poison and a group of dancers kicked up a storm.
And if you thought all of Calcutta was in clubs or on the streets, think again. Hordes were packing the beaches, from Bangkok to Puri, say tour operators. And the weekend will find many packing their bags for snow-white Darjeeling.