Kolkata has long enjoyed a reputation for its cheerful street culture, languid afternoons, and creative spirit. The city has embraced both intellectual curiosity and geniality as a way of life ever since its days as the early capital of British India, and nothing demonstrates this better than the very Bengali pastime of addas.
Addas are best described as communal discussions that are informal, unrestrained by time, and usually conducted over several cups of tea/coffee. An adda can be either impromptu or pre-planned, meandering, or moderated, cerebral, or trivial, and therefore demonstrates the power to bring together different themes and groups of people. Topics of discussion at an adda could range from anything between familial rants to Iranian foreign policy. As Kolkata’s history and famous Bangla songs might indicate, these ritualised hang-outs have contributed greatly to the city’s cultural life. Whether they happen at a roadside tea stall or a coffee shop, they tend to remain at the heart of residents’ memories and experiences.
Today, as a result of rapidly evolving lifestyles and restrictions on physical meetings, addas have evolved too. Some rendezvouses now occur on Zoom, while many others simply have to wait. But as an undeniable part of Bengali cultural heritage, there’s no doubt that the spirit of adda is very much around, biding time for its next cup of tea.