Park Street on Monday afternoon. Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray
Calcutta sprung back to life in the evening after only a handful of souls stirred on its sweltering streets during voting day that turned out to be the hottest May 12 in a decade at 41.4 degrees Celsius.
Most people set off early to the booths to vote and spent the rest of the day in the comfort of their homes.
Park Street was deserted around 1pm, barring a few solitary cars zipping through the city’s hippest street. Shops opened at late afternoon but people started strolling in only after sundown.
The Mehtas of Alipore drove to Park Street for a cup of tea at Flurys while Pradeep Duggar of Southern Avenue went to a south Calcutta mall.
“After voting, we drove around the city in the morning and saw most of the shops closed. We returned to Park Street for tea in the evening,” said 52-year-old Jyotsna Mehta. Her husband and son nodded.
The Mehtas, a group of young professionals from Lake Town and a family from Joka were among the evening crowd — sparse by Park Street standard — that kept the area alive and kicking in the evening.
“Mental fatigue was creeping in after staying indoors the entire day. So we thought of driving to Park Street,” said 49-year-old Agni Mitra, a Joka resident who has come with wife and daughter.
Amrit Ranjan Das, a Class XII student, said it was “unbelievable that Park Street could be so silent”. The boy from Middleton Row was “happy that it had come back to life” by 7pm when he came out for an ice cream.
“We voted early in the day… there was no point wasting the entire day indoors and so we came to Au Bon Pain,” said Pradip Mohta of Lake Town.
Another buzzing spot, Gariahat, didn’t wake up even when the light switched from sunlight to streetlight. The garment shops were closed and most of the hawkers didn’t turn up.
Residents of the area were served a rare treat — an evening walk on hawker-less and shopper-less pavements. Aniruddha Chandra, a 27-year-old IT professional with a Sector V company, took his seven-month-old nephew for a walk around 7.30pm. “This is unthinkable on a Monday… so few hawkers on the footpath,” said Chandra of Kasba.
Many preferred to spend the evening in malls and multiplexes, which too were either closed during the day or opened late. Homemaker M. Agarwal of Cornfield Road, who was in Quest mall with her husband, summed up the contrast: “It was so unlike Calcutta in the morning and it looked as if there is a curfew in the neighbourhood. It was so relieving to see the malls open in the evening.”
The Park Circus mall opened at 4pm. “By 7.30pm, we had clocked around 30,000 people. It’s like a Friday or a weekend because this Friday itself we had around 35,000-40,000 people and those are the figures for the entire day,” said Sanjeev Mehra, vice-president, CESC Properties Ltd.
South City Mall had a slow start after opening at 1pm. It recorded an evening footfall of around 15,000.
“The standalone Mainland China on Gurusaday Road was going faster on parcel and home delivery… looks like people in the area are making the most of the evening by chilling with friends and family at home,” said Debashish Ghosh, regional business manager, Speciality Restaurant Ltd.
Advocate Shreyashi Mazumdar, 27, had planned her day well in advance — vote, rest and go to a multiplex to watch Apur Panchali with a friend. “I knew multiplexes will open after 6pm. After the movie, we will probably hit a pub and bid goodbye to the dry days!”
|Outside Quest mall in the evening.
Picture by Anup Bhattacharya