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Article: Coffee House

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COFFEE HOUSE

 

    Recently I came across a very interesting article titled, ‘A Spell in Hindustan’ written by one Philip Crossland. A journalist who started his career as an editorial assistant with the ‘Statesman’ in 1938 in Calcutta and was later transferred to Delhi.

    Where, during the Second World War, he joined the Indian Army but not for long. Soon he resumed his career in journalism, once again with the Statesman by becoming a resident editor to begin with, then deputy editor and finally the general manager.

    What is fascinating about this article is the manner, in which, he describes the ‘Coffee House’ of Calcutta. ‘Coffee House’ we all know are located, in various important cities of India and have been the nerve centres of various thought domains. Largely visited by the local intelligentsia.

    Calcutta Coffee House was no different and I haven’t forgotten the old saying … ‘What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow.’

    Coffee House was one of the great institutions of Calcutta of those times located in Chittaranjan Avenue. And since, it was just across the road from the Statesman’s office, it was a popular rendezvous for the members of the staff. It was divided into two sections that were generally known as, the ‘House of Commons’ and the ‘House of Lords.’

    In the ‘House of commons’ your coffee was brought to you with the milk already in it. And you merely had to add sugar. Whereas, in the ‘House of Lords’ milk, sugar and coffee were served on a tray in their separate receptacles. And of course, the customer paid for the refinement. 

    In the house of commons there was a general pandemonium that was but obvious. Whereas, the upper house of lords was generally quiet, still and sedate for the self-styled superior intellectuals. A table near the door was invariably occupied by the Chief Secretary, to Government of West Bengal. Quite immersed in solving the hard to tame ‘Statesman’s crossword.’ Which is unthinkable in present times. So, India, indeed, has changed, as Chief Secretaries, now need to solve their crossword puzzles at home and not in office, overtly. And will certainly become the talk of the town if they attempted to do it in a coffee house.

    In the centre of the room was a galaxy of talent from an advertising agency. One of their members was the would be … Satyajit Ray. Yet to find fame as a film maker. But, a quarter away through the production of ‘Pather Panchali.’ Others seen there included, Dilip Mukherjee and Chidananda Das Gupta.

    And another regular was a gentleman who bore an uncanny resemblance to the Russian dictator and was consequentially known as ‘Stalin.’

   I read somewhere in Google. The Coffee House of Kolkata is now three hundred years old.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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