Long before coming to Kolkata, I have heard and read about the famous Book Bazaar (Boi Bazaar or Boi Para in Bengali) and the Indian Coffee House on College Street of Kolkata. Predictably enough, after getting transferred to Kolkata, Boi Bazaar and the Indian Coffee House became two of the must dos in my list of to dos in Kolkata. Being a person who is crazy about books, I knew I will be going to Boi Bazaar and since the Indian Coffee house is in the same area where Boi Bazaar is, I wouldn’t
give it a miss. I was a lone soul for most part of my initial days in Kolkata. Hence, Coffee House was not really happening due to the absence of a like minded friend. Opportunity knocked and I went there with a friend of mine recently. I am sharing my first hand experience of the College Street and the Indian Coffee House of Kolkata here.
There couldn’t be a more appropriate name than College Street for this
street in North Kolkata, as it is surrounded by many well known colleges and educational institutions of all time. The famous Presidency College, Sanskrit College, the Scottish Church College, the Bethune College, the Calcutta Medical College, the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Vidyasagar College, Hindu School, Scottish Church School, Bethune School, Holy Child School and the University of Calcutta, all are situated on both sides of this street. Me and my friend went straight to the street where Indian Coffee House was ruling for decades. We really needed some fuel to explore the book bazaar of Kolkata. Asking the driver to park the car in a convenient location, we got down from the car and my first reaction was, “This road is, oh so Kolkata!” My statement was supported by a roaring red tram that passed by while a hand pulled rickshaw awaited for it to pass. I felt some connection!
The entrance to the Indian Coffee House is deceptively low key. Once you climb up the red spit filled staircase to reach the first floor, you would see a roaring two floors of a cafeteria that has people discussing different things and eating different snacks at the same time. The building is old and the ambience is of a warm humid cafeteria. Well, yeah, I am being frank here. I wanted to sit on the top floor of the cafeteria where I can get a good view of the entire cafeteria. So we both went upstairs and have chosen a table for two and made ourselves comfortable.
I thought to myself, well, may be I am sitting in one of those chairs where few of the famous writers sat! Suddenly, realisation struck and I saw the plastic chair I was sitting on. I told myself, “Nah, plastic chairs were not being used during those days.” Felt a tiny winy bit down that I didn’t sit on one of those old chairs available on the first level of the café. Anyhow, I started taking photographs of different angles and frames while we both waited for the waiter to come and take order. It felt as if the waiters were going to take ages to come and take orders. I told my friend, “May be they purposely give time to you so that you can indulge in the favourite hobby of Kolkatans of indulging in adda! (gossip/discussion)”
Well, finally the waiter came and took our snack and coffee orders and introduced us to another round of endless wait. I am not sure if it was because it was a holiday or something else, they were really slow. Anyway, since I had a wonderful companion with me, I enjoyed the wait with nice chit chats and some photo shots. After having our fill, we headed to the book market. I have always been very fond of books. I love the smell of it, I love the sight of it, I love the feel of it, I love to read for hours, in short, I love everything about books. Hence I was thrilled to see the endless numbers of book shops dotting the sides of the pavement. The best part of the market is that the shopkeepers are very eager to show you what you want and they are knowledgeable. There’s more, if you are finding a book and that particular shopkeeper doesn’t have it, he will find and get it for you from another shop, so, you don’t have to pound the pavement searching for your book.
You must be wondering what did I buy, right? Well, here comes the wonderful part. The books are sold here at a lower price than the printed price. I have never bargained on book price ever. But I was surprised to see that you don’t even have to think about it, as the price is slashed at the start itself. I bought a new 2010 edition of Photoshop CS5 Bible, a handbook for learning Adobe Photoshop. Excellent book with 1042 pages. Loving the book every single day. Boi Bazaar also buys and sells old, used, second hand books at a discount of 50 percent or more. A great place to find some rare books as well.
I found this College street to be a one stop shop for the students, since there are shops that sell all kinds of stationary products a student might need for his desk. Starting from clipboards, magnetic boards to writing copies and variety of folders, you can get everything you want in your academia. I bought 10 folders, a magnetic board, colourful marker pens and a CD holder for my study. So, if you are into books and great coffee, go visit College Street and Indian Coffee House. I recommend.
Click on the photographs for a larger view. For more photographs of The College Street and Indian Coffee House, please visit my Picasa