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At Dusk, Coronavirus Lockdown Means Kolkata’s Terraces Come Alive

Over the years, terraces had faded into the background. It took a lockdown for people to rediscover them.

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2 min read

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

For most Calcuttans, the mention of a terrace or "chhaad" evokes a sense of wistful nostalgia. Gossip being exchanged over boundaries while folding clothes hung out in the sun, pickle being dried with grandparents, and secret romantic escapades with young lovers are just a few of the common elements that make the terrace a much-loved place for most.

However, due to fast-paced lives, these spaces had receded into the background. One silver lining of the lockdown has indeed been the terraces of Kolkata coming alive at dusk once again.

At around 5 pm, just before the sun starts to set, people can be spotted in almost every accessible terrace. Kids run about. Elders enquire about how the lockdown has been treating neighbours over terrace walls. Adolescent boys try to make up for the loss of evening 'para' cricket by throwing the cricket ball from one terrace to the one beside it. Someone strums the guitar. Others take a brisk walk around the periphery of the terrace or do some free-hand exercise in an attempt to maintain some fitness regime.

Some would take out their phones at some point and take a snap of the sky changing hues from a flaming orange to a pinkish-purple, because if it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?
The Purple Hour
The Purple Hour
(Photo: Rupsha Bhadra)

Skyscrapers are a fairly new phenomenon in the city. Thus, most people grew up in homes where the terraces were always accessible. Rooftops inevitably became intrinsically linked with memories of days bygone.

“We used to come up to the terrace to fly kites during Vishwakarma Puja. It used to almost be like a battleground, with friends competing to cut each other’s kites.” 
Iman Ghosh, Post Graduate Student of Economics

For north-Kolkata resident Shreya Seal, the terrace was where the whole family headed when the city was plagued by frequent power cuts. Hours would be spent sitting on mats and talking about everything under the sun, till the electricity came back again.

Meghna Bhadra, whose ISC examinations were interrupted by the lockdown, remembers rushing to the terrace to enjoy torrential downpours. Tanuj Kar, a strategy manager, recalled playing cricket and even preparing for board examinations while sitting on the terrace. Shaon Sen, a civil servant, fondly recollects cousins lying on the terrace playing games and singing songs in their ancestral home.

But power cuts reduced in the city. People got busy. They joined jobs which wouldn’t ever permit returning home before 8pm. The terraces faded into the background.
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It took a lockdown for people to rediscover this gem in their own homes. It took mandatory orders to stay indoors for parents to find time to play with their children at dusk. It took spending all of one’s time inside four stuffy walls, to find solace in fresh air. It took a complete lockdown to slow down, head upstairs and once again revive Kolkata’s glorious terrace culture.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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