The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain, rain gone away

Calcutta, Oct. 10: After showers yesterday left streets waterlogged, Puja revellers swarmed onto the streets today from early afternoon as the sun played hide and seek with the clouds, but there was no rain.

The weather office added to the joy. “Officially, the monsoon withdrew from north and Gangetic Bengal today,” it said.

“We have had fair weather through the day and chances of rain in the next two days are minimal,” said G.C. Debnath, director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore. “Calcuttans can expect clear weather from now till winter sets in.”

To make the most of a dry day in a curtailed festival, people hit the streets shortly after noon, taking police by surprise and causing massive traffic jams, especially in north and central Calcutta.

“Might as well make the best of it while the sun shines,” said Santanu Das at Girish Park, whose plan to tour the city’s pandals yesterday were washed away by the rain and the waterlogged streets.

“I have already visited five pandals in the last two hours since noon, and I hope to travel to south Calcutta areas like Behala and Kasba by the evening.”

The unexpected noon rush triggered bumper-to-bumper traffic jams in the afternoon on large stretches of Chittaranjan Avenue, Mahatma Gandhi Road and Shyambazar in north and central Calcutta and Rashbehari Avenue and Diamond Harbour Road in the south.

“We had thought that the peak hours would start from around 4 pm, as it normally does, and we had done our traffic planning accordingly,” said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner, traffic, Calcutta police.

Shamim said around 2,000 traffic policemen are deployed from around 4 pm during the Pujas. “But people started pouring into the pandals after noon and the peak hours, in fact, started from 2 pm.”

Puja organisers, while heaving a sigh of relief that Monday was spared rain, said they were “pleasantly surprised” at the early crowd turnout.

“We had never anticipated such a turnout in the afternoon,” said Samir Sutradhar, of Bose Pukur Sitala Mandir.

“We had to request the police to send a contingent to control the afternoon crowds. Usually, police postings take place in the evenings.”

The chief organiser of the College Square Puja, Badal Bhattacharjee, echoed Sutradhar. “We are, of course, very happy about it, but we had never before experienced such a heavy turnout so early in the day in previous Pujas.”

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