The cauliflower in the singara seems tastier. Early risers are not so early. Cold coffee has finally made way for a piping-hot brew.
The slide in Celsius, which followed a long warm phase, has given fresh momentum to the Kolkata winter trademarks.
The mercury settled at 12.7 degrees Celsius at dawn in Kolkata on Thursday, the lowest so far this season. The Met office did not rule out a further dip.
The Telegraph takes a dekko around the city.
A ride on a horse carriage in the Maidan area.Pradip Sanyal and Sanat Kr Sinha
Cold winds have gripped the city, prompting many Kolkatans to put their best defence on. Caps, of various sizes and colours, are flying off the shelves.
“Abhi time kharab mat kijiye. Itna din to baithe the (Don’t spoil the business now. I had been idle for days),” Rakesh Sharma, owner of a stall on Lindsay Street in central Kolkata, told The Telegraph photographer around 2.40pm on Thursday.
During the warmest period of the day, half a dozen customers were busy sorting their headgear from Sharma’s lot.
Visitors to the Victoria Memorial sip hot tea on Thursday afternoon.Pradip Sanyal and Sanat Kr Sinha
The price of monkey caps, the stuff of legendary winter humour in Kolkata, started from Rs 100.
Sharma would not budge despite repeated requests for a discount. “For most of December I hardly sold anything. Last week was exceptionally bad. The sale has picked up since Monday. I am keeping my fingers crossed,” said Sharma.
On December 27, the minimum temperature in Kolkata was 20.7 degrees, a whopping seven notches above normal.
Shoppers buy woollens in New Market.Sanyal and Sanat Kr Sinha
Rum for it
In the middle of last week, a restaurant on Park Street in the central business district kept warm water only for finger bowls. Now, three kettles of warm water are kept for drinking. With rum, that is.
“Every now and then, a customer wants rum and warm water. More so during dinner,” said Pratap Daryanani, owner of Oasis.
The sale of beer has gone down drastically, said restaurateurs and pub owners.
“More people are ordering rum, whisky and wine. The demand for soups and sizzlers has also gone up,” said Nitin Kothari, owner of Mocambo, Peter Cat and Peter Hu?
Customers enjoy street food on Camac Street on Thursday evening.Pradip Sanyal and Sanat Kr Sinha
Steaming cups and pots are back in business.
“Till last week, cold coffees and shakes were being ordered in good numbers. But now, people are preferring the old-school hot tea and coffee,” said the manager of a Barista outlet in south Kolkata.
Around 11.15am, a family was sipping hot tea in earthen cups outside the north gate of the Victoria Memorial. “We are from Uttar Pradesh. It is much colder back home. But for the past couple of days, we can feel the chill in Kolkata. There is nothing better than a cup of hot tea in winter,” said a woman.
Chai Break, a chain with over a dozen outlets in Kolkata, delivers tea flasks via Swiggy, Zomato and its own delivery service. The 500ml single-use flasks come with five cups.
“Till last week, we had been delivering around 230- 240 flasks in Kolkata. Since January 1, the number has gone up to over 500,” said Aditya Ladsaria, owner of Chai Break.
The demand for hot chocolate has also been on the rise, said owners and staff of cafes across the city.
Lake comes alive
Kolkatans skipping their morning walk around the Rabindra Sarobar to stay under the blanket for an extra hour are missing out on something.
“The best way to enjoy winter in a city like Kolkata is to spend some time around the lake. There is nothing like the sun mingling with the cold,” said Shalini Patherya, who lives near the lake.
From scores of ducks paddling in the water to the rowing boats pacing up and down the lake, winter in Sarobar is special, she said.
Even on weekdays, space is at a premium at the Alipore zoo, Victoria Memorial and Eco Park.
The weekday crowd at the zoo has been hovering around 25,000, said an official of the park, compared to under 10,000 in the lean season.
The Victoria Memorial has been witnessing around 17,000 visitors every day and New Town over 30,000, said officials.
While these places also clocked bumper footfall in the last week of December, the crowd has sustained.
“The last week of December is a public holiday, especially for children, and people visit the zoo irrespective of the weather. But the dip in the temperature has helped in sustaining the weekday crowd even after the offices and schools have opened,” said an official of the zoo.
The horse-drawn carriages outside the Victoria were busy on Thursday afternoon. “I have had four rides till now,” Md. Ismail, coachman of a carriage, said around 4pm. Each ride around the Maidan costs Rs 500.