Speech or song, crown or umbrella - rally had it all
|Rafi’s Chaudhvi ka chand muffled Mamata opposite KC Das|
|Totos parked near E-Mall on CR Avenue drew onlookers. The electric vehicles brought rallyists from across the Hooghly|
|Supporters from Kalyani flaunt their Trinamul umbrellas outside Victoria Memorial after the rally|
|Shyamal Shyam shows the sewing machine he was selling; (right) rally hawker Mushtaq Ahmed|
|Teachers from Murshidabad who skipped school on the first day of the week to attend a rally|
|Hari Charan Shankar in his Trinamul headgear; (right) the ‘party’ haircut of Somenath Das|
|Roads marked red are those choked by Trinamul supporters. Those in yellow are roads where vehicles crawled because of the rally. Kingsway was closed for traffic as it was used to park vehicles ferrying crowds to and from the rally|
|People watch Mamata on a big screen near the CR Avenue and Vivekananda Road crossing in the Girish Park area. Pictures by Sanat Kr Sinha, Tamaghna Banerjee and Anup Bhattacharya|
The Trinamul Congress show at the city centre on Monday was not restricted to the dais. Metro found some interesting people and incidents in the crowd.
Rafi vs Didi
They came to hear Mamata Banerjee’s speech and went home with a Mohammed Rafi song stuck in their head.
Hundreds of Trinamul supporters were on the footpath barely 50m from the dais and hardly 20ft from two loudspeakers but none could hear a word Mamata spoke because of a third loudspeaker closest to them and rigged to the traffic signal post opposite KC Das. Rafi’s Chaudhvi ka chand ho was blaring out of the one at the intersection, by order from the government.
“We sat on the footpath because it offered a side view of the dais. But the music was so loud we could not catch a word of Mamata,” said Jayanta Bera of Sandeshkhali in North 24-Parganas. Some went to the adjacent police kiosk and said: “Cut the music.” The cops shrugged: “Who will hear the music for switching off the music?”
Totos, the electric three-wheelers banned by the high court last month for illegally operating in Howrah and Hooghly, were the new kids on the rally block. They ferried Trinamul supporters from Howrah to the venue.
The colourful totos, with party flags fluttering on their roofs, were parked near E-Mall on CR Avenue. And they were worth a dekko because of the novelty factor. Many people were seen milling around the totos for a closer look.
Toto owners were clear about their participation in the rally. “The transport department has not issued us permits and we don’t have designated stands in Howrah. We want to attract Didi’s attention to our plight,” said Ajai Singh, whose toto was parked on CR Avenue. A Trinamul worker defended the use of totos: “These vehicles don’t cause air pollution.”
A group of Trinamul supporters from Kalyani flaunted their affiliation not on their sleeves but on their umbrellas. The political statement over their heads drew curious glances from fellow rally-goers as they thought Mamata was giving away free umbrellas. “We got these at a rally in Kalyani a year ago. Making good use of them today,” said Abhijit Mondal, a party worker from Kalyani.
“How can we come so close and yet not visit the Victoria Memorial!” remarked Dhiman Byapari as he led a brolly brigade into the landmark.
Two in one
Mushtaq Ahmed and Shyamal Kumar Shyam claimed to have never missed a Mamata rally as well as the business opportunity the event provides. Ahmed had bought clothes worth Rs 2,000 from a market at Girish Park and sold Bermudas and T-shirts at a flat rate of Rs 30 on the road near the CTC depot at Esplanade. “Look at the crowd, look at the opportunity… how can I let it slip by!” said the man who owns a tarpaulin shop at Baruipur.
Standing near the Esplanade East Road-Chowringhee crossing, Shyam sold pocket sewing machines. “I chose this spot because I can hear our leader speak and at the same time attract customers,” said the Baguiati resident.
Hari Charan Shankar had spent Rs 5,000 for a headgear made of thermocol, paper, cotton and glass with an image of Mamata pasted on the tiara-like front panel. “I got it made at Kumartuli four years ago and wear it at every July 21 rally. I have become popular… people throng around me to get a photograph clicked with the crown,” said Shankar, a resident of Natun Bazar in Rabindra Sarani.
Midnapore resident Somenath Das wore the Trinamul insignia on his head,too, courtesy a haircut with the party’s flower at the back. “I got the haircut two days ago for this day,” said Das in a T-shirt bearing a Mamata image.
Seven teachers from separate schools in Murshidabad were seated under a tree shade inside Lenin Park at Esplanade. “We came to show solidarity,” said Pratul Chandra Sarkar, geography teacher at Batikabari High School in Berhampur.
Didn’t they skip school on the first day of the week to attend a political rally?
“We are teachers, no doubt. But we are part of the state teachers’ union too. Hence, we are here at a political rally. We will make up for what our students missed today in the next few classes of the week,” said Suparna Dey, who teaches chemistry at Mahakali Pathsala in Behrampore.
The Trinamul publicity wing put up giant screens at crossings in central Calcutta to relay Mamata’s July 21 speech.
“A lot of misinformation has been spread about our party and our leader. We want to her message to reach every ear,” said a councillor. Hundreds watched the broadcast at Girish Park, Brabourne Road, Bowbazar and the Dorina crossing. No doubt, traffic huffed and puffed to cross crossings.