It was much like a lull before a storm. The city looked deceptively relaxed the evening before millions of eyes were glued to the television screen from seven in the morning on Thursday. The hum was missing on the streets. Buses were fewer and those living near the main thoroughfares reported that the noise outside was less than usual. Many had returned to their homes in the suburbs after office instead of spending a few hours with friends and colleagues at the local tea shop to have an early dinner and retire. The excitement was palpable. The time between the last phase of the election and the day of the result was much too long. It gave rise to all kinds of speculation and random guesswork. Tea meetings of senior citizens at parks and clubs had no subject for discussion other than the battle of the ballot to which the exit poll projections made no small contribution. The real tension was visible on Thursday morning when the streets were virtually empty. Pavement hawkers seemed to have decided to take the day off. A colleague who likes to buy fresh fish every second day was taken by surprise by the vacant stalls at Hatibagan were almost certain that the situation in Gariahat which was the other option was not much different. He settled for rice and chicken curry at lunch but that was only because, like many babus in government and private offices, he had decided to put in an application for casual leave. This was a day when the boss would also not be in the mood for business.
Advanced technology ensured that the tension didn’t last more than a few hours.Well before noon it was clear in which direction the political wind was blowing and television screens brought the first pictures of an explosion of green. Shop owners may have been smart enough to keep abundant stocks of the coloured powder with the firm conviction that the result wouldn’t disappoint them. If there was an element of uncertainty in their case, sweet shops had no such problem. Whatever the result,sales would be brisk. Some sweet shops had made special items in the hope that winners and their supporters would go on a splurge. Nothing conveys the joy of an occasion more than a large pot of rasogollas or a packet of the best variety of sandesh. But after the excitement subsided, conversations turned to the expectations of a better city. Roads may be in better shape,the illumination and disposal of garbage enough to impress the visitor and the flow of drinking water quite abundant. But will there be an answer to waterlogging during the coming monsoon and traffic jams round the year? Will parks be maintained and the Strand protected from hawkers? The idea of drawing inspiration from London may have drawn a cynical response at one point of time.But as Kolkata,with the rest of Bengal, prepares for a new chapter, the signals may not be disappointing after all. Green, on the one hand, and blue and white,on the other,may be the new colours of hope and more visible in the days to come. But that&’s another matter.