or the fine art of socialising
(relaxed conversation about anything and everything under
the sun) remains one of the favourite pastime of the people
and adda, the Bengali term for relaxed conversation about
anything and everything under the sun, still remains the favourite
pastime of the people of Bengal.
Adda might have originated during the erstwhile zamindari
system when the zamindar or the landlords
were surrounded by his moshabes or sycophants, passing time
in idle gossip. Or the famous Bengali adda might have its
roots in the villages, where elders used to discuss local
politics at a common place.
with the passage of time things changed and the literary sessions
came into being, which were made fashionable by the Tagores
and a little later, by Sukumar Roys Monday Club
and then by Derozio and Keshab Chandra Sen. They were usually
rounded off by the serving of exquisitely prepared snacks
and cups of tea.
literary magazines and works took shape out of these discussions.
They were usually rounded off by the serving of exquisitely
prepared snacks and cups of tea.
This trend was continued in the College Street area, the so-called
Boi Para, where famous and about-to-be-famous authors gathered
in the evenings. Hours of exhilarating adda followed. Umpteen
cups of tea and black coffee were drunk. Established authors
encouraged aspiring young ones, and eventually, not only the
participants, but those who made up the audience too came
away richer in mind.
Across the road, a famous and historical meeting place stood
in all its glory, the Coffee House. Inside the Coffee House,
a dense fog of cigarette smoke, an assorted aroma of coffee
and food and a loud hum-the sound of several addas-greeted
the newcomer. Basanta Cabin near Shyambazar is another favourite
hunting spot for adda-lovers.
Let me recount my fascination with addas. I grew up in a joint
family and Sundays and holidays were special days. My father
had a stream of visitors from early morning till late evening.
We youngsters used to peep from behind the curtains and observe
budding singers fine-tuning the lyrics of their latest songs,
young men arguing on the latest political happening, or simply
enjoying a siesta. My grandfather had his own set of friends
-serious, articulate and dignified elderly men deliberating
on a serious topic.
so much vocal exercise necessitated the constant slaking of
parched throats, so tea was supplied at regular intervals.
There were days when more than a hundred cups of tea were
made! Yet no one complained - neither the head of the family
nor the women (who had to put up with the irregular hours),
and especially not the domestic help who untiringly prepared
and served tea, and then washed all those cups afterwards.
My grandmother regally presided over her own meetings
- usually in the afternoon, when the men were absent, and
the house was quiet and cool. Here, the shining brass paan
container, with small bowls holding various ingredients, occupied
pride of place. Every topic under the sun was discussed and
of course, family gossip exchanged. Elders acted as arbitrators
in family or local disputes. Sometimes, even marriages were
arranged in these feminine addas.
I remember fondly the smooth green lawns of our college, where
we sat during our off periods. We shared jhalmoori
together with plenty of chatter and carefree laughter.
Come evening, and parks and important street crossings of
Kolkata attracted adda-loving young people. Idly watching
traffic and people go by, casual conversations assumed new
dimensions. The middle-aged and the elderly frequented neighborhood
shops or dispensaries. The days experiences were related,
with the shop owner or the homely doctor joining in. With
time hanging heavy on their hands, unemployed young men chose
two places for their adda. The roadside ground floor verandah
(known as the rok) of a house, or the roadside tea stall.
Occasional lewd remarks, aimed at passing girls, caused much
resentment among the seniors of the locality.
for the Bengali adda-lovers, multistoried buildings have replaced
roadside verandahs. Parks and footpaths have gradually disappeared.
Todays youth is more interested in their careers, net
surfing, computer classes and other extra-curricular activities.
Men and women today follow professional schedules. Those women
who do not pursue careers are busy bringing up future managers,
engineers and doctors. Our time is rigidly programmed. Unannounced
guests and irregular hours upset our jet setting lifestyles.
However, a few still cling to this typically Bengali pastime.
Early in the morning, or late in the evening, men with faltering
steps and failing eyesight gather at selected spots, especially
around the Lakes in down south. Neglected by the present,
they share memories of their youthful past. Perhaps they lament
those glorious addas. Part of another generation, these elderly
men watch sadly as synthetic adda sessions are
planned for special occasions like Poila Baisakh (the Bengali
New Year). They realise all too well how these fall very much
short of the real thing.