Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee House er sei adda ta...

This post should have been written last year, but I sat on it for the longest time ever because I did not know how to write what I felt. I still don't. But what the heck I thought. It is Black & White Wednesday. And anyway what can you write about something that is as mythical as Coffee House,tucked between old bookshops, above betel-juice stained stairs on a by-lane just east off College Street.


It is not that I had my first love there, beneath those high ceilings and dusty twirling fans.Nor did I bunk classes to discuss fall of the Soviet empire over wispy smokes of Charminar and tall, grimy glasses of cold coffee. Sitting besides those mildewed walls, I did not pen my my first poem for a Little Magazine.


All that I really did was drop in whenever I was in the area, to eat and soak up the atmosphere. The food wasn't even good and the service austere. Yet, I would step in, fanning myself with a dupatta, my sling back loaded with books;to order a plate of chicken pakoda or a kobiraji cutlet and a cup of really bad coffee. The hum of the rich sounds around me, the smell that reverberated through the walls trapped since the 70's, the imperceptible presence of Calcutta's literati in the same uncomfortable wooden chairs as mine, fascinated me. I wanted to belong to the Coffee House crowd but never did.


Last year after I had spent hours browsing through the book stalls spilling with books on the narrow pavements on a particularly humid day in October, I stepped into Coffee House again. The place seemed stuck in time, relying heavily on its past glory. The walls seemed to have taken a careless brush of paint and some of the wooden chairs had given way to plastic. The sign stuck on its walls was another new addition but I doubt if anyone so much as took a glance.


Everything else including the servers with their elaborate head gears and their strict demeanor remained same. I ordered a Chicken Kobiraji for myself, D got an omlette. We sipped our cold coffee, limp and uninspiring.


I took out my DSLR but was too shy to break the rich monotonous hum with a high pitched click and so kept it away. After a few pics with my smaller camera, we stepped out in the sun into the cool interiors of the Indica, leaving the musty yet energetic 70's in our wake.


Calcutta Coffee House -- circa 2010

I don't know if the above picture qualifies, if it does off it goes to Susan's Black & White Wednesday.


  1. Oh, those anachronistic waiters in those anachronistic uniforms! So typical ... so is the quaint English on the poster. Nice shot, Bong Mom!

  2. Sandeepa,
    you have the eye and the story to go with it. Loved it.

  3. Sandeepa, heard a lot about the nostalgic coffee house from my dad, u have picturised that through your mighty pen! To me, coffee house is for lovely chicken sandwitches brought to our old home at college street, pakoras and coffee were must have at their stall in the calcutta book fair. At our time coffee house unfortunately lost its glory as it became a den of unsocial addicts! I hope coffee house regains its old glory with Presidency University.

  4. getting all nostalgic about the place...! Though coffee isn't good thr... :(

  5. Hello Sandeepa, first time here. Couldn't resist dropping by when i saw your coffee house black and white photo in Susan's round-up. I 've lived in Kolkata for two years and actually visited this place when a friend told me about its legacy. Your story says exactly what i would 've said about it, if i could put it into such eloquent prose. That poster was there 5 years ago and we had a laugh about it too. Love your witty writing.

  6. Like the sign probably needed these days for youngsters who sit hours with a glass of cold coffee for hours :)
    Gosh it is such a huge hall the coffee house, ur narration is flawless (need to remove the first two lines....)

  7. Sra

    10 yrs ago the poster was not there. People went there to actually just sit at the tables and talk. No one could ask you to leave !!!


    Ahhh, thanks, it was a long time desire to click photos there but I felt very self-conscious when I was there with my camera finally :) I don't know but for same reason I am not able to fish out a camera easily on busy Indian streets.


    Thank you, good to see you and welcome :)


    Don't know about youngsters, as I told SRA the trend was to go there, occupy a table and never leave. So that poster is a rude shock

  8. Aditi

    Eta kon shomoy ? Presidency te shunlam Didi notun ki council korche ?

  9. Sandeepa did you go to ICH on MG road, Blr? its another place and the description can be similar if not same :D

  10. Nice photos... I used to love the snacks and coffee about a decade ago at the Indian Coffee House too, but hav'nt been there since then

  11. tumi 'Chunaoti' bole national network e je serial hoto dekhechile kakhono? ami tar thik porer samayer kathai bolchilam. jodi dekhe thako tahole bujhte parbe.... hya, amrao news paper e presidency council er byaparta porchi.... dekha jak...

  12. Aditi

    Hyan "Chuanoti" dekhtam to, mone hoy oi shomoy amra Kolkatay thaktam na. Ota late 80's e hoto na ? naki pore ?

  13. I was just thinking what Sra said about anachronism. These shots look like they were stuck in time. So much changes so quickly that it's nice and comforting to see some of the old ways still surviving. Thanks, Sandeepa, for a BWW trip down memory lane.

  14. Wow the Always Amazing Nostalgic Place stil retains its Charm..
    Okhane gele ekta alada i feeling onubhov hoy.... bole boyan kora jay na!
    thanks for this beautiful post abt amader PRIYO Coffee House :-)

  15. hya tumi thik e bolecho sandeepa. 1980s er sesher dikei. ota dekhe college niye darun craze toiri hoyechilo, takhon amra school er sesh dike... takhon thekei presi te sunechi poribesh kharap haoa suru.


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