Every city is famous for certain things, in the same way in which Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) is known for its culture. The ‘City of Joy’ as it is often referred to as, is known to preserve its heritage. Kolkata is that one city where drama theatres are still more prevalent and more visited than movie halls and people of the city never get too tired of watching theatres. Besides Satyajit Ray, Swami Vivekananda, Victoria Memorial, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Rosogulla, Kolkata is also famous for the Indian Coffee House, which is situated at the academic hub of the city.
Before the advent of brands such as Barista or Starbucks or Cafe Coffee Day, Calcuttans had the luxury of such coffee shops where topics of discussion ranged from everyday life to politics and where nobody would force them to leave the place or order anything. Being situated at the academic hub of Kolkata, the College Street, Coffee House is a place visited mostly by the students of various schools and colleges regularly. It is known that when in College Street, a visit to Indian Coffee House is mandatory. Coffee House is the Mecca for budding poets, intellectuals, painters, aspiring writers, playwrights and filmmakers. The topics in here range from heartbreaks, films, music, books, future plans, politics to anything that’s ever possible.
The history of Coffee House goes back to around 300 years from now when it was the residence of great Bengali philosopher and social reformer Shri Keshab Chandra Sen. At a later stage this place was dedicated to Prince Albert Victor of Wales and was named “Albert hall”. At an even more later stage the Coffee Board decided to start a coffee joint from the Albert Hall in 1942. In 1947, the name of the place was changed to “Coffee House” by the Central Government. After facing a lot of hurdles, the place continues stay strong. It was even shut down somewhere in the year 1958 but it was again reopened in the same year on public demand. In the year 1994 The Supreme Court of India recognized Coffee House as a cultural center of India and declared it a Heritage building. The history of Coffee House is really impressive just like the place.
“Adda” that’s a word with which every Bengali is familiar and the same word is strongly associated with Coffee House. Adda is at the same time a light yet a powerful term. It refers to the light-hearted discussion on any topic. Adda over a cup of Infusion and other snack items which are the specialty of Coffee House is something that Bengalis live for. Manna Dey, an Indian playback singer of yesteryear sang the very song “Coffee House-er shei adda ta aaj aar nei, aaj aar nei…(Where has the Coffee House adda gone? Where have those golden evenings gone?)” in memory of Coffee House. Many intellectuals have had such adda over a cup of coffee and a plate of cutlet and chops. Coffee House is a kind of place where you forget about your mobile and are thrown back to the times when the mode of communication was talking to each other in person.
Coffee House stays in the heart of every Bengali whether they live in the city or not. It’s a place for adda, studies, love-stories and memories. On the whole, Coffee House is a place of nostalgia for every Calcuttan. You must be wondering why I’m still referring to Kolkata as Calcutta and the reason behind that is Kolkata is a city, but Calcutta is an emotion.