A few minutes of rain after a fortnight’s wait was as precious a sight for Calcuttans on Wednesday afternoon as the morning spectacle of Venus as a speck of black moving across the solar disc in slow motion.
So long and agonising has been the vigil for rain in this cauldron of a city that some greeted the brief and light afternoon shower triggered by “localised thunderclouds” with the pitch of a monsoon melody.
Those who didn’t have the pleasure of trilling Raindrops are falling on my head on Facebook or Twitter uttered a cyber curse of frustration. “S***! It’s raining in Calcutta... it’s not raining where I live! So it’s not Calcutta? :(,” tweeted actress Parno Mittra.
“What kind of a stupid rain was this? Less than 10mins??? [in Salt Lake],” she updated her status a little later.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) classified the 10 to 15 minutes of rain on Wednesday as “a pre-monsoon shower”. In a normal year, pre-monsoon rain starts in late May but the city didn’t have any until Wednesday.
“There’s been a change in wind direction. We have had hot and dry winds from the northwest moving into south Bengal. This afternoon, we had a south and southwesterly flow dominating,” said Devendra Pradhan, the deputy director-general of IMD Calcutta. “Winds from the south are laden with moisture and have a soothing effect.”
According to the weatherman, the southwest monsoon is still some way from south Bengal despite advancing fast overnight to hit the Northeast and most of north Bengal.
The good news is: Thursday might see the city’s minimum temperature dip by a few degrees.
“There could also be scattered rainfall activity in parts of the city, though it won’t bring significant relief. The weather is likely to be just a little more comfortable over the next day or two than it has been lately,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore.
The city had felt like a pressure cooker for the third consecutive day before the rain lowered the Celsius by around four degrees from the maximum of 40, five notches above normal.
As on the previous two days, the triggers for discomfort were 40-degree heat, a humidity range of 47 to 88 per cent and hot winds.
The day’s discomfort index, an estimate of heat stress on the human body, was 69.5 degrees Celsius, 14.5 points above normal. Tuesday had seen the index soar to 71 degrees.
“Although temperatures didn’t drop by much, the average daytime humidity was around 8 per cent less than Tuesday’s. That is why the discomfort index was slightly lower. But that alone would not have minimised the discomfort had the cloud cover not brought rain, even if briefly,” an IMD official said.
According to Met official Debnath, the Bay of Bengal arm of the monsoon was weak despite the sudden onward movement over the past 24 hours.
“The monsoon flow may have moved substantially overnight, but its weakness will not allow it to keep moving forward. We would have to wait a few more days for it to arrive,” he said.
The southwest monsoon usually hits town around June 8. It arrived in Kerala on Tuesday four days behind schedule, triggering fears that the current wasn’t strong enough for it to endure. But the Met office in Thiruvananthapuram said the monsoon was normal.
“Average statistics for the last 139 years show that the onset of monsoon has mostly been in June. It also indicates that when the rains have come in June, the monsoon has been normal,” said P.S. Biju, director-in-charge of the Met office in the Kerala capital.
In years when the monsoon arrived in May, there was deficient rainfall.
Bengal should know. In 2009, the monsoon had arrived on May 25, dragged in by Cyclone Aila. That turned out to be the most rain-deficient year for the state since 1972.