Kolkata Addas

PC: @lbb.kolkata/Instagram

The Indian Coffee House on College street is Kolkata's iconic hub for coffee and conversations

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.

Indian art has been on an upward trajectory in the past two years. New venues such as the NMACC, Hampi Art Labs, as well as The Brij in Delhi have opened up to increase the number of available spaces for artists and the arts. At the same time, legendary Indian artists are reaching new heights the world over. Last year, Amrita Sher-Gil’s The Story Teller broke the record for an Indian artwork, selling for a whopping INR 62 crs.

With all these developments in the Indian scene, it seems to be just the time to explore and promote a new dimension in contemporary art, whether it is revisiting old masterpieces, or reinventing traditional art forms.

Old is gold

While Sher-Gil is extremely well known even outside art circles, there is a panoply of Indian artists who seem to finally be getting their dues and recognition. Rumale Chennabasaviah, one of Karnataka’s greatest modern artists (also known as India’s Van Gogh for his striking naturescapes) painted over 600 artworks in his prolific career. NGMA in Mumbai is presenting a retrospective on the artist, featuring over 80 of his best works.

Meanwhile, one of the founders of the famed Calcutta Group, Gopal Ghose, is being celebrated by DAG 2 in Mumbai through a retrospective exhibition that explores the breadth of his oeuvre. Known for his striking use of watercolours, this is an unmissable look at the evolution of contemporary Indian art. In his hometown of Calcutta, Ganesh Haloi is finally getting his first large-scale exhibition at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, exploring a monumental 60-year-old career.

The new look

Mixing the rich storytelling traditions of India, and traditional arts, along with a smattering of eclectic styles like hand cut paper, Debjani Bhardwaj is creating an fascinating showcase that invites the audience to engage with the art as well as participate in creating it at the Threshold Art Gallery in Delhi.

At Snowball Studios in Mumbai, Milaaya Art Foundation aims to revive the art of embroidery in a modern way. By training on artworks by famed artists, the exhibition has artisans use varied embroidering techniques to create different versions of the same artwork, thereby highlighting the uniqueness of each technique.

So, where will you be headed this weekend?


The mokoro is the perfect place to witness South Africa’s lush canvas from, particularly in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The stillness of these traditional canoes allow you to create an intimate connection with nature, immersing you in the sights and sounds of the Delta. 

As compared to other spots in Botswana, Okavango remains largely untouched, interrupted only by the meek mokoros. For a long time, being a ‘poler’ or mokoro guide was considered to be a man’s job. This is because taking people on a tour on dug-out canoes along the glassy delta waters required a considerable amount of balance and physical strength. 

But mokoro safaris are undergoing an interesting shift. The challenge is now also taken up by female safari guides, who want to share the knowledge and culture of their land with tourists. Okavango Delta is one such place where women are getting to explore this passion by turning into mokoro guides. 

For many of these women, mokoro safari is a two-way street, helping them to not only create a fresh means of income but by also offering them something unique. The stillness helps them use all their five senses without any disturbance, transporting them into a meditative state and leaving them with indelible memories of its tranquillity.