Problem begins at the very beginning, whenever you are out to define what ‘adda’ is. You can, at best, note down these points regarding ‘adda’:
** its idle talk.
** It is unbounded in scope and depth.
** It takes two to kick off an ‘adda’ session and when in session there’s absolutely no upper bound on how many can participate in it.
** It may or may not be extremely intelligent or entirely dominated by serious intellectual topics.
** It doesn’t take you to be an expert on anything to express your all important view on that particular topic, when you are in an ‘adda’ session. In fact, more often than not the speaker himself stays in a totally confused state, on the topic he is professing at that very moment! And that doesn’t debar him of expressing his sagacious view…out there, and nobody sees any wrong in that…!!
** It is not important to be clearly understood by others, it is important however to vent yourself.
** Talks about the affairs of other people form an all time smash hit ‘adda’ topic.
** When in full session (i.e, when being joined by 10 to 15 participants) an ‘adda’, from a distance sounds like a gentle sound of water flowing over stones.
** A good ‘adda’ session lasts for at least two hours, and in general is fuelled by scores of tea-cups and a staggering abundance of cigarettes.
** ‘Adda’ is all of chat, babble, gossip, debate,quiz, gable, prate, prattle, tattle, hearsay, backbiting and meddling – and it is many, many, manifolds huge and vast and wide and complete than all of them taken together.
** ‘Adda’ is not an event or a routine of some sort; it is rather a way of approaching life, forming an integral part of Kolkatan subsistence.
The sense of decorum in the ‘adda’s differs strikingly from that in other walks of life. The ‘adda’ has its own do’s and don’ts, according to its own character-wise classifications. For example, the ‘parhar adda’ – which are ‘adda’s in the localities, have distinctly different flavours and “rules” and “ethics” than the so called ‘intellectual adda’s.
The nomenclature ‘intellectual adda’ is admittedly preposterous and sufficiently stupid, but that is how Kolkatans brand these addas. It is unfortunate but it’s a hard fact that Kolkatans nowadays are in a constant pursuit of segregating the topics and subjects with the slightest touch of intellect from those which are traditionally known for their mundane and dull and stale and monotonous characters.
Just to explain the matter briefly, say in a parhar adda you are obliged to deliver an amusing speech, either to boost the tempo or to orient the discussion to some different topic. Nobody cares about the direction and orientation of the discussion and it does not matter what the subject you lead up to so long as the speech is amusing and brief. If it turns out not to be so funny, then at any rate it must be short. According to the “rules” of parhar adda…As a matter of fact, why speak of rules, when the peculiarity of this talk session lies precisely in that it has no rules whatever? You may resort to any tactic, anything you like: quote thinkers wrongly to produce the height of misappropriation, distort facts to any desirable length, mingle history and mythology to such an extent that helps you to frame your argument, reminiscence personal references to draw sentiments to your favour, shout and scream so loudly that out of intense irritation and exasperation everybody takes your opinion seriously – everything is permitted. This extremely enjoyable form of gossip cum babble cum chat is what you can roughly think of as ‘Parhar adda‘, and there are millions and millions of Kolkatans who evince an unbelievably genuine interest in it. These extremely delightful addas, the ‘parhar adda’s, take place most commonly in some popular ‘chayer dokan’s (the tea-shops) in the locality, or in some centrally located cache in the heart of the ‘parha'(locality) or simply at somebody’s attic. Obviously there can not be some hard and fast ‘parha’ to ‘adda’ mapping relationship; but on an average any ‘parha’ in Kolkata hosts some 7 to 10 parallel ‘adda’s in any Sunday morning or weekdays evenings, and the areas which are renowned for their glorious tradition of ‘adda’s may host upto 25 to 30 addas on some cloudy Sunday morning.
This brings us to the next point regarding the plentiful idiosyncrasies of the ‘parhar adda’ sessions. Kolkatans don’t really like bright sunshine and clear sunny mornings. They have gone tired of them. The ‘George Harrison’ superhit number ‘Here Comes The Sun’ might well have taken Kolkata by storm if Mr. Harrison could turn kind enough to change the word ‘Sun’ to may be ‘cloud’ or ‘rain’ or ‘gale’ or anything of that nature. Naturally the rain marred evenings, the cloudy afternoons or the stormy mornings offer perfectly conducive ambiences for brilliant ‘adda’ sessions. So if you get to Kolkata someday and if you encounter a dreadfully hellish downpour trodden evening, be rest assured – Kolkatans would be extremely delighted to greet such an weather and what’s more, be completely sure that they are having great addas all over the city.
The ‘Bandhs’ (general strikes) also provide superb ambiences for ideal and extended ‘adda’ sessions. A subtle difference however is there. The Bandhs, whenever they come and as many they come are always thankfully accepted with humble smile; and it matters least whether they come under scorching April sun or on some chill January morning; – Kolkatans absolutely love them. And we are keeping all the State and National holidays out of the discussion, because they are declared for this noble purpose of ‘adda mara'( joining an ‘adda’ session and continuing from there on), at least that is what Kolkatans think about them. To hell with the historical significance, be it 15th August or 1st May – what the heck of a difference would these numbers make to the all important session of ‘adda’? ….. – Very true indeed. So, they care least about the dates, all that is important to them is to have that undisturbing chunk of at least 3 hours of time, which would make a good ‘adda’ session.
The adda participants are never bothered by the usual doubts of any acquaintance: ‘who is this person?’, ‘what does he do?’ ‘where does he live?’ ‘what’s his salary?’ ‘why is he raring to have a go out here?’ …No. The participants feel least disturbed by the introduction of somebody rank outsider to their discussion, everybody is accustomed to this and nobody takes the slightest care to express his or her personal views on anything and everything open in front of somebody completely unknown!! – And that is ‘adda’.
This draws us automatically to the next ‘adda’ point, which is to recognize that ‘adda’ is a great leveler. It is not something unusual to find a squatter getting on perfectly well with his Fiat owner neighbour in some bazaar adda session across a cup of tea. They chat about the rampant corruption, discuss next Sunday’s Football match prospects with all seriousness and talk about all the weird aspects of air pollution. During ‘adda’, they forget their social background and make good peers!! – That is ‘adda and that is what it contributes to the Kolkata dateline; – and isn’t that unique?
It is virtually impossible to figure out the topics which these ‘Parhar Adda’ sessions do not touch. Starting from the rather drab issues relating to Bengali T.V serials to the all time colourful discussions about the newest trends in Kolkatan advertisement, from mundane talks on Kolkata’s housing problem to the ever heated topic of Stability of the Government, from drastic change of pattern in Kolkata’s Weather to a subject pole apart namely…debating over whether pickpocket can be regarded as an art-form or not…everything, we repeat every conceivable topic under the sun gets fare share of attention and what is more striking is the unexpected fulminations by the debaters with which they traditionally introduce these topics. It feels really great to be a part of these adda sessions. They are, to say the least, immensely enjoyable and truely memorable.
The so-called ‘intellectual addas’ for that matter, are even more vast and offer, in some cases, incredible depth. Because in these talks everybody from ‘Satyajit Ray’ to ‘Salvador Dali’ , from ‘Richard Feynman’ to ‘Leon Trotsky’ are critically debated. To collect quotations in favour of their arguments the serious and sincere debaters search anything from ‘Emperors New Mind’ to ‘Of Grammatology’ to construct, re-construct, and de-construct their own frame of logic. The Kolkata Intelligentsia is extremely well known and although nobody compares them with their Parisian counterparts, you can take our words, they are not far behind. – In fact this vibrant and radical, extremely intelligent and intensely emotional intelligentsia is the sole cause what drew (and still draws) people like ‘Allen Ginsberg’ and ‘Jean Renoa’, ‘Gunter Grass’ and ‘Octavio paz’, ‘Ho-Chi-Minh’ and ‘Noam Chomsky’, ‘Roger Penrose’ and ‘E.C.G Sudershan’, ‘Jacques Derrida’ and ‘Stephen Spender’, ‘J.B.S.Haldane’ and ‘Pete Seeger’ to Kolkata.
dislikes mentioned in here 😉