Kumartuli was praying for deliverance on delivery-eve. The Devi’s four arms that would jut out of the studios in the alleys were wrapped in plastic sheets. The ones that could be seen did not make a pretty sight — many a divine finger had melted and cracks marked the shoulders, with hours to go for Mahalaya.
The drizzle-and-downpour drama being played out in the abode of the goddess — and the rest of the state — shows no signs of letting up on Mahalaya.
The Regional Meteorological Office in Alipore, which recorded over 100 mm of rain on Thursday, warned of “heavy to very heavy rains” in the next 36 hours in Calcutta and the rest of south Bengal.
Deputy director general at the Met office, J.V.M. Naidu, said the “well marked” low pressure in Bay of Bengal had hit land on Thursday and intensified into a depression. “It now hovers near Jamshedpur. This will lead to heavy to very heavy rainfall in Calcutta and the rest of Gangetic Bengal till Saturday,” he added.
Doomsdayspeak for artisans fighting the delivery deadline. “It makes more sense to sell plastic sheets than make Durga idols,” said an artisan, bitingly, before returning to operation salvage.
But the plastic sheets, selling for Rs 12 per metre, are no safe bet when there is more than the rain to battle. “The storm last night blew away the plastic cover while we were sleeping,” grumbled Babu Pal, secretary of Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity.
At Canal East Road, the shanties delivering more than 200 idols to Sealdah and beyond, feared having their roof blown off. “We were up all night praying,” said Nimai Pal, wondering how the Devi’s eyes would be drawn on Mahalaya.
The other bother is the rising kerosene bill. “The Samity gives us five litres every week. But in such weather, the ration lasts barely a day,” Badal Pal explained, while pumping a stove to life in his Kumartuli corner. Every other studio was busy boiling tamarind seed glue or putting the blow lamp to the damp figures. Brows creased with concern, they wondered aloud: “This is the worst time, just when the idols have to be delivered...”
With no deliverance in sight from the weather gods, puja organisers waited with an eye on the sky. “Our mandap made of clay is crumbling,” cried Hillol Bose of Ajeyo Sanghati in Haridevpur.
And on the streets, rain and waterlogging choked the heart of the city on Thursday. Central Avenue, MG Road, Lenin Sarani and the Park Circus connector were some of the worst-hit thoroughfares.