Kolkata

Cyclone Amphan makes quick work of grand trees and joie de vivre of City of Joy

Broken spirits: A fallen tree in the Tollygunj area of Kolkata on Thursday morning.

Broken spirits: A fallen tree in the Tollygunj area of Kolkata on Thursday morning.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Last October, Arabinda Ganguli passed away at the age of 91. Seven months later, on Wednesday, the radhachura tree he had planted outside his south Kolkata home in 1977 was also dead. The trunk that had withstood many storms was felled by Cyclone Amphan.

Also read: 72 killed in Cyclone Amphan fury, 15 dead in Kolkata alone

The radhachura isn’t alone. Countless other trees, including many that inspired poetry in those who lived under their gaze, are gone. Not just trees alone. Poles were uprooted, cars were damaged and metal roofs flew off. On Thursday morning, Kolkata woke up in a state of daze, the silence gripping the city far more pronounced than the one caused by the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

And just when residents thought they would pick up the pieces and move on, they realised the road ahead was blocked by the lockdown. To make matters worse, mobile networks collapsed, and as a result people couldn’t reach their loved ones to enquire whether they were safe. But thanks to broadband, pictures of battered neighbourhoods began to circulate on social media once power supply was restored and the extent of damage began unravelling itself.

“There is devastation all around our house. So many [makeshift] shops are gone. Ours is one of the few houses that have power and neighbours are sending their fish and milk to be refrigerated. I even saw vans carrying dead bodies — no idea whether they were victims of COVID-19 or electrocution,” Ranjini Guha, daughter-in-law of the late Mr. Ganguli, told The Hindu.

 

This is peak summer, when Kolkata should be melting in the heat, but the weather feels like February, and the citizens of the City of Joy would have loved to do what they do best: celebrate. But they are not only fettered by the lockdown but are also staring at uncertainty because of the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the city, and now to be pounded by a super cyclone. While it is up to the government agencies to calculate the extent of damage, one thing is certain: Amphan has scarred Kolkata.

“We are feeling miserable and alone, like a doomsday feel. We can’t even step out because trees have fallen on both sides of the road, but we can sense the trail of destruction,” said Anshu Monga Kapur, an entrepreneur who lives with her husband in Ballygunge. “The shaken security guard at the gate asked me innocently whether the cyclone had blown away coronavirus as well.”

Said the Karachi-born Shamlu Dudeja, a long-time resident of Alipore: “Amphan has taught us that the biggest necessity for any human is a shelter whose roof wouldn’t blow away and whose floor won’t come under water.”

She herself lives in a handsome house but spent a better part of Thursday getting water out of her ground-floor rooms. “Last night was very frightening. It was like a horror film. I have never been through such times,” said Ms. Dudeja, who, as a child, witnessed the horrors of Partition.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 7:56:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cyclone-amphan-makes-quick-work-of-grand-trees-and-joie-de-vivre-of-city-of-joy/article31643739.ece

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