Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Adda of One?

I have a lot of friends who, like me, enjoy their cup of fine tea, the right way, and with discrimination.  Regardless of whether it be a fanning that can be bought off the street for under 800 bucks or a pure single crop, they relish their moments with their brew with a spiritual intensity that is impossible to describe in words.  While tea is most frequently shared in a community setting, or a family/friend setting, it is also equally frequently shared only with the select, sometimes as select as alone.


Yet, the ritual, the ceremony of a cup of tea remains as mystic as an adda of one.  Like the walking addas of our student days where we walked with the sole intention of being able to exchange thoughts and ideas, songs and bottles (or whatever) as we emulated our grandparents who did the same thing at the Lake or in the idyll lanes of Regent Estate, a cup of tea often became the starting point for a series of walks homeward.  I drop you, but then you drop me, and how can we not stop for a cup of tea and say hi to all the other losers.  I drop you.

An adda is a stimulation of the social network, and for the impaired or the schizophrenic, it can turn into quite a riot.  Ask me.  Kidding.  Who typed that?


The word 'adda' exists in many Indian languages including Bengali. But the essence of the word is essentially Bengali and synonymous with Bengali culture and tradition. It usually takes place among friends, relatives or colleagues. Adda manifests itself everywhere in embryonic form. From the Egyptians or Turks chilling out with a cup of coffee or the Americans guzzling bear in a pub – everybody is found relaxed, relieved and deeply engrossed in a typical 'adda' mood, sometime or the other. Addas are best seen during the festivals. In cities and towns, these grew in modified form in later years. In Calcutta, young men cluster on 'rowaks', (narrow platform outside a dwelling house) parks, bus-terminuses, canteens and in all possible places under the sky for an adda session. Its an undeniable fact that the unemployed youth mostly constitute the addas. But the addas are so addictive that these people can never forget the charm of a harmless adda. They continue meeting at the appointed time in their fixed rendezvous even after getting employed.

Addas in Calcutta are substantially cultural or intellectual. Sri Gopal Haldar appreciated this in his 'Adda' – a collection of essays (on various subjects including adda).


Writers, and thought leaders have used the adda from the time of Socrates and Plato to monger trends.  A cup of tea is a similarly subversive process.  Like a drunk bard, one has no clue what comes next.

The Kolkata addas centered largely around offices of publishing houses, editorial of journals, large and small, and at the obvious watering holes, be it coffee, tea, or the most basic of alcohol.

A more placid and less formal adda was held at M.C. Sarkar's office. M.C. Sarkar was a renowned book seller and publisher. The adda was organised by Sudhir Ch. Sarkar. He used it as a platform for people to comment on the children's magazine "Mouchak". It was visited regularly by Makhanlal Sen, Tusharkanti Ghosh, Manoj Basu, Kedarnath Chatterjee and even Sarat Chandra in his early days. Gajendranath Ghosh hosted the adda of the 'Bharati Group'.

Today's generation may not be fully aware of the intense adda at the 'Desh' office which was presided by Sagarmoy Ghosh. Another adda was held in the magazine section of the 'Ananda Bazar Patrika' and was hosted by Ramapada Chowdhury.

A friend of mine, from whom I borrow heavily, and who refuses to acknowledge me as a friend, writes, "Indeed, talking is an art of the finest degree which is not everybody's cup of tea. To be an active member of an adda and participate in its macrocosm of discussion and debates, one has to possess a gift of the gab and be abreast of the current affairs with promptness of mind and clarity of thinking. This typical Bengali trait of adda has even influenced the relatively serious non-Bengali Calcuttans. An adda is indeed the purest and simplest way of refreshment and enjoyment with no gainful purpose. Kudos to the Calcutta Adda."

Ah but I was going to tell you about how to make tea.

1 comment: