The last Jagaddhatri light has gone out. The last bhashan song has been jigged to. The last Kali puja cracker has been burst. The last bhai has gone home with his ceremonial phonta. The smell of the last shiuli is slowly giving way to the aroma of the first notun gur in the inconspicuous earthen pot'
Before there is time to recover from the last vanishing effects of the season of mellow fruitfulness, you can feel winter in the air. For, through the foggy haze in the slate mornings, the mild-yellow sunshine in the early afternoons and heavy dew in the late evenings, the cold comes creeping in.
Slowly, stealthily, but surely, the countdown to the cold season has begun. Here's breezing through what's bound to be'
The morning newspaper seems more essential than ever. Teamed with a cup of tea, laced with ginger, and a shawl snugly in place, the weather-slot in the daily becomes the all-important lodestar to your looks, and the mercury makes your mood. If Alipore arrests the temperature slide at 18 degree Celsius, buses, autos and the Metros are rife with, 'Kobey je thanda porbey (when will winter arrive')'. If on the other hand, a 10-degree mark is foreseen, the city's winter bone chills overtime and every woollen scrap waltzes out.
Cold war gear
As the sun makes a late dawn appearance and swift dusk disappearance, the nip in the air gets a wee bit nippier every day. This is just the time to start rummaging for woollens through the mothballs and plastic wrappers. Red leps without covers, blue school cardigans, yellow kiddies' gloves and green mufflers jostle for space on sunny rooftop terraces across town. From the dadu's monkey tupi dating back to his 1978 Darjeeling discovery to the teenybopper's Benarasi scarf down hi-fashion alley, from aunty's Kashmir shawl to the boss's three-piece suit' the city's winter wardrobe flourishes fine.
It is time for the gourmet to go on a rich green run. From prosperous leafy cabbages and lettuce to carrot and beetroot; beans, peas and capsicums for the fitness fanatic to the lip-smacking lure of phoolkopi bhaja. From nolen gur, patali gur and Joynagarer mowa to oranges, apples and grapes at affordable prices, this is the right time to look at the menu through health-tinted glasses. Just as well, for the appetite at this time of the year spurs you on to target footpath fun munches and fine-dining meals.
With constant, itchy throats and running noses, say hello to the season of hot water gargles and rheumy garbled speeches, body ache, staying-awake nights with spasms of cough, malaria and overflowing doctors' chambers. The dilemma is written on the wall ' to switch on or off, to rotate right or left. Once that fans out, the Calcutta morning-walker is ready to hit the road with a vengeance, hat, pullover, muffler and all. This braveheart breed dots the greens, asphalts and cobbled patches with spirits as indomitable as the early fog that keeps the prying bleak sun at bay.
The lure of the Maidan, Nicco Park, Alipore Zoo, Millennium Park, Clown Town, Science City sparks a maddening streak of picnic passion in the hearts of the city's Sens, Agarwals, Kapurs and Qasims. With local shows at Park Circus, the Russian ice spice at Netaji Indoor, weekend evenings are when to catch the Calcutta family circus on a roll. The baba clutches tickets, ma frets with water bottles and biscuit packets, Babloo and Tubloo wear their blithe spirits on the sleeves of their embroidered sweaters. From mela and mahamela to jalsa and natya utsab, the city is more mobile than ever. Add to this the Maidan vs Bypass fair play and there's a guessing game to be played, as well.
Play it again
With sweaty, tiring summer days behind and some way ahead, Calcutta embarks on its annual tryst with cool outdoor games ' cricket and badminton. Though cricket is a national pastime all year through, it is now that every cricketer, crowned or closet, chances his arm before a makeshift stump.
Every open space ' park, crossing, street, lane and bylane ' is overrun by cricket enthusiasts. Window panes are meant to be broken and every para is meant to have its Sachin (or is it Shochin') as cricket emerges king.
A distant second is badminton, the shuttle game shunted out after an annual life of 30 nights. But as long as it lasts, the line-drawing bonding, and squabble over shuttlecock budget, the racket over racquet repair and the rise and fall of the gali champ are stuff sporting legends are made of.
As the mercury slips and the mood soars, the party calendar crowds up. With less than a month to go for Christmas, followed by the grand finale on New Year's Eve, it's the time to disco. At parties, private and public, in corners quiet or cacophonous, fun unlimited is the way to be. In between preparing for the next party stop, Calcutta often dozes off in the afternoon, only to wake up, gulp down a coffee and hit the floor.
Finally, this is flashback time. Start taking stock of the year that was and mull over the little that is left of it to salvage. From cratered roads to new flyovers, from unfulfilled government promises to personal targets set and missed, take a tumble or a toss.