11 May, 2021

Adda Robusta

Adda Robusta

Can it be that an establishment serving coffee and victuals would come to represent, even embody, the unique zeitgeist a city would be known for; to capture and preserve for posterity some of the frisson that defines a great age of ideas? It does too. Just as Café Central preserves in amber fin de siècle Vienna, Café de Flore post-war Paris and Elaine’s the ferment of ’60s literary New York, the Calcutta Coffee House on College Street reifies a vigorous, fecund age of intellectual accomplishment from the ’40s to the ’70s. As a large oil portrait of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore kept benign watch over them, future economists (Amartya Sen), actors (Soumitra Chattopadhyay), poets (Sakti Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay), filmmakers (Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak) and countless students argued, debated, criticised and conspired. It was the high seat where the high-minded adda—as Calcuttan as anything palpable—was apotheosised. As the years fell away, grubbiness yellowed the walls of the large, airy and smoky rooms over two...

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