By Anish Dutta Roy
Let’s face it ladies and gentlemen, if you know a Bengali or a “Bong”, which is now the current word to represent Bengalis all over the world you must definitely know what “adda” or socializing is! It’s a way of life for people who live in a small but beautiful place called West Bengal or as our people love to call it Bangla! (By the way, in native language, “Bangla” also means cheap liquor! So please don’t confuse the two 😉 )
As far as you can go back in time you will find Bengalis have a culture of meeting up at small roadside tea shops and talk about anything and everything. It can be about how Edison invented the lightbulb to that beautiful goal scored by Messi in the last match. If you come to Kolkata you will see that there are tea stalls almost in every corner of a street and along with tea comes the famous “chai pe charcha” or “discussion over tea” by Bengalis. A Bong comes to a tea stall and spends hours and hours of his time discussing over issues such as political, social, geographical, sports, movies, history and what not!
Well you get the point!
And you know what the best part is? It is a common phenomenon among all age groups! College students love to catch up with their friends in a tea shop of their convenience and talk about their day over tea and cigarettes. This is the age where a Bengali learns about socializing with his fellow peers, seniors and very senior people. And that is probably one of the reasons why you will always find help in Bengal! There is always some group of people in the nearest tea stall who is definitely willing to help you. A Bengali in a way is actually never alone. He has been taught from the very early years of his life to socialize with people, have an open mind and talk about things, whatever is there on his or her mind. I mean, if you try this you will see that its actually cheaper than paying your shrink.
There are people who have trouble communicating with others. Psychologists are of the opinion that if you can socialise at a tea stall or anywhere for that matter you can get rid of that demon in your head that tells you that you are not good enough to talk to people! I mean come on! Its just talking to people! You see a person, you reach out to them and you say something. Something meaningful!
Whoa! The last few lines were really creepy! But you know just think about it. What if my friend, like others had actually learnt the art of socializing in his early years. And what a great way of making friends too! I personally have made more friends through tea shops than I have ever made through other channels in my entire life!
This culture of ours have seen a lot of change. In the past 100 years the locations for “adda” have changed a lot. Previously it was inexpensive. All you needed were your friends, family, neighbours or anybody you can think of, find a place such as your local tea shop, the iconic Lake or Coffee House and at the expense of Rs.10-20/- you could have had discussion from Rome to Tokyo! But as time passed, there has been recent out-pours of Western culture in Bengal and expensive Cafes have come up where activities are usually limited to business deals and breakups! There has been a shift of the younger crowd to these cafes but since it is not pocket friendly at all it becomes difficult for these kids to visit these joints on a regular basis.
If you look back in time you will see eminent Bengali personalities have been known to socialize in their youth or even when not so young. In such conversations ideas were born, ideas of revolution, of independence, of virtue and self-righteousness. Leaders were born in such conversations. You don’t need the internet or television to educate you about the current situations of the world, the heated political debates all over the country, historic facts and even football. You can have it all over some good company and maybe a cup of tea or coffee for that matter.
Since time immemorial we Bengalis have stood by our love for inexpensive ways of socializing and it has brought more good than harm. I personally believe that a brief session of “adda” can really give me hope, hope that I don’t have to live my life from deadline to deadline, hope that one day there will be a cure for Corona virus and even cancer, hope that my favourite football team will win this year’s world cup and more of hope for I am a Bengali and that I will smile again the next day for no matter what, “adda” is here to stay.
“Amra Bangali. Amader rondhrey rondhrey adda”,it means,“We are Bengali. Socializing runs in our veins”– something my father dropped on me back when I was in college.
Post pandemic, don’t miss a chance to have a great “Adda” session!
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