Kolkata College Street – a few , very few, have not yet stirred their lips with the melodious coffee House song of legendary singer Manna Dey. Indian coffee House popularly known as college Street coffee House stands synonymous with Kolkata’s college Street. Established in 1942 the place became an intellectual hub for the poets, artists, literati holding enviable position in elite life. Persons from all domains of aesthetic exercises flocked here to participate in the relentless debates on almost all fields of cultural activities. Bengal politics was motivated and fuelled with fiery arguments at coffee House. Many Che Guevara and Vladimir Lenin were born and blossomed inside the smoky ambience of college Street coffee House.
Many literary movements germinated over a cup of coffee and many innovations found wings in the corridor of this coffee house. College Street known as Boi-para is dotted with small roadside stalls containing new and old rare books on almost all the subjects of human interest. An avid book lover must be happy to find himself lost in the Wonderland of wisdom couched in the torn brownie pages of very old collections.
College street became College Street because of Presidency College, (established in 1817 esteemed as one of the oldest educational institutions of Western education in South Asia), the University of Calcutta established in 1857, Medical College and hospital, the first college of European medicine in Asia, the Sanskrit College where Vidyasagar held a scepter in great admiration and awe of the then elites of Indian society. It was in this street where Henry Louis Vivian Derozio – the exponent of Bengal renaissance took up the mantle of path finder to show light for his superstitious brethren.
The tale of Kolkata’s College Street remains inconclusive without the popular food joints of the place. Eating haunts catering to various tastes abound the nook and corner of this educational hive. Ranging from college square fuchka and jhalmuri the place is famed for traditional Bengali delicacies like dalpuri, radhaballavi, jolbhora sandesh and thousand other sweetmeats. Bunking classes the young lovers sneak into the curtained cabins of Dilkhusha and Basanta cabin. Roadside kalika telebhaja is ever alluring, enticing intellectuals of different shades. And last but not the least remains Paramount sarbat quenching the thirst after
devouring fuchka and alukabli .
True, College Street has now been stripped much of its former glory. Tragic descent has set in. But a nostalgic reverie of that great citadel of learning once frequented by such intellectual stalwarts as Rabindranath , CV Raman , S Radhakrishnan, J C Bose , S N Bose and such others is a bliss of solitude.
About the Writer
Prof. Arunabha Dasgupta
Professor Arunabha Dasgupta is an English Literature scholar and has taught for several decades in nationally reputed colleges under Burdwan University in West Bengal. An extremely popular and well respected personality among his students of all ages, Prof Dasgupta has been taking active interests in various cultural activities like theatre, recitation , literature etc . He has also been a regular writer for various magazines and newspapers in Bengali and English language and opinionated in socio political issues .