NEWS NEW YEAR KOLKATA
By PRANAB GHOSH / IHN-NN
KOLKATA: Kolkata is where streets liven up with action, celebrations and festival frenzy. Kolkata, its economy limping for decades due to high voltage politics, is still the Cultural Capital, a legacy left behind by the likes of Tagore. Such sentiments were reinforced again as the city saw off the Year 2020 plagued by Covid-19 virus and rang in the New Year in style.
Cultural shows added to the grandeur of the occasion. There was much mirth as also bonhomie as streets, clubs and eateries were lit up elegantly for the grand occasion. Youths streamed out of residential areas into the streets in gay abandon, defying the Covid threat, and embraced life in all its charm, colours and gaiety.
Scenario one: 6 pm at Park Street: Two girls are busy snapping a ‘selfie’ in front of Flury’s, the top confectioner brand that has served Kolkata since the good old days of 1920s. Inside the eatery, most of the tables are occupied by primarily young crowd, busy munching on the available delicacies, including cakes, pastries and cookies, as they chat each other up for the one last time in 2020. The girls had their masks pulled down. Cops sniffing around the area come in and tell them to have their masks worn placed.
As people were walking into the Park Street down the footpaths on both sides of the street, they could hardly miss the police bandobast and ignore the airing of covid precautions that they were expected to take, over the microphones. The eateries on both sides of the decked-up Park Street did brisk business. The footfalls, though, were much less than last year’s New Year eve.
Most of the seats at Domino’s on the Park Street were occupied by young boys and girls and families. “Last year was the real crowd. The footpaths were blocked and the main road was open to the crowd to stream ahead, with no cars plying between 5pm and 8 at night. We were open to dining only, with no home deliveries. But where is the crowd this year? There is less than 50 per cent footfall in our joint this time, compared to last year,” rued Sumon Naskar, shift manager, Domino’s Park Street.
He went on to add, “Our outlet has traditionally been the shop with the highest sales on New Year’s Eve in the whole of eastern India”. This year would be no exception, he said.
Some kilometers down in the south, the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan complex was busy with people listening to music, sitting and standing in the open air, but dutifully maintaining the covid regulations.
December 31 was the last day of the Bangla Sangeet Mela that began on December 23. Bang opposite, the Mohorkung hosted the Paus Utsav that began on December 25 and end January 1. People on the eve of the New Year were enjoying the cultural shows in Mohorkunj as others went around the stalls for food, handmade ornaments, clothes and handicraft items.
Paus Utsav was also being held at two other locations –Salt Lake and Taltala Maidan. The Gaganendra Silpa Pradarshansala in the Rabindra Sadan- Nandan complex was hosting an exhibition commemorating the birth anniversary of the noted singer Hemanta Kumar.
A musical gig, where the national award winning singer Iman Chakraborty performed live from 7pm enthralled the audience at Shribhumi, set in the eastern Kolkata. Such gigs were on in some other areas too to bid 2020 a farewell and urge the New Year in.
Scenario two: 8.30 pm, Dumdum Metro Railway complex. Two women in their early 20, with masks lowered to the neck, were busy eating momo in front of a food stall. The duo was out to enjoy life as they eagerly awaited the arrival of the New Year. “We are afraid of Covid, but at the same time unafraid to embrace life,” the duo quipped in the same breath as they spoke to this writer and had more mouthfuls of their momos.
Some steps away, there was romance in the air. A young man and a young woman hugged each other and exchanged flowers. They had no masks on.
Kilometers to the west, eatery Capnil Kitchen and Monginis the confectionary were doing brisk business. However, they complained about the lesser footfalls. The manager attributed the lack of more patrons to the fact that the New Year Eve was a weekday, unlike the Christmas, when they did real good business. “People have no money. This is the month-end, most are yet to get their salaries. Moreover, many are without jobs. The covid slump robbed them of their jobs.”
That there is restlessness in the minds of the people is all too clear — be it due to the joblessness or the fear of catching the infection as a political rally ended in front of the gates of Rabindra Sadan. The people who took part in the rally were carrying Trinamool Congress flags.
And as they raised slogans on the New Year’ Eve, one is reminded of the approaching high-stakes elections to the West Bengal Assembly, that’s round the corner – four months hence. It will essentially be a clash of colours—saffron and green. –IHN-NN
—The writer is a senior journalist and poet based in Kolkata.
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