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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Experience Kolkatan Adda: the never-ending conversation

Conversation is the key to motivating a Kolkatan…

By Iftekhar Ahsan
Founder of Calcutta Walks

When you go to any old Bengali home, you’ll see a stone slab outside it called a ‘rock’ (in local language) where people back in the day would rest their feet and take a breather before moving on. You’re under the protection of the house yet not disturbing its privacy. This was a beautiful way in which people supported travellers.

As Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) developed, these areas became places where people from the neighbourhood would get together and chat about anything from how cricket should be played to how the country should be governed. The conversations just went on and on veering from one topic to the other with endless cups of chai until the discussions evolved into the tea rooms and eateries that cropped up around the city catering to these conversations which we now call adda.

It’s very interesting, if you try and motivate a Kolkatan with money, that person may not necessarily respond, but motivate them with conversation that resonates with them, then you can get them to do anything under the sun. Rabindranath Tagore is one of the most famous Kolkatans – the only person in the world to have composed not one, not two, but three national anthems. Unthinkable. He’s a bit of a dude as you say.

When you come on our tour, we include you in or set up an adda session perhaps outside the old Bengali House, if not, one of the charming tea stalls tucked away in the oldest part of the city. Or even in an antique shop as old as the beautiful furniture it sells. It’s at least two hours, anything less is not really an adda. If you’re going to a historic home you will get a tour of the house first or if you’re going to an interesting neighbourhood then we contextualize it a bit because if you’re not comfortable you won’t be able to converse.

The content is always nice and rich in spite of Kolkata’s short history of 330 odd years. In terms of Indian history that’s nothing, but within that time it’s seen the building and breaking of the empire. We always make sure it’s a topic you are familiar with. And there’s a lot to talk about. Kolkata being Kolkata, there’s so much knowledge of global events, politicians and art. All of it leads to an enlightening experience.

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Alfred & Iftekhar Ahsan

Born and brought up in Kolkata, Iftekhar’s inexplicable love for the city prompted him to rediscover the city’s dusty roads and crumbling buildings. While his ancestors were rangrez or cloth dyers in Rajasthan, Iftekhar broke out of the traditional family business in order to start his own. Iftekhar’s love for the city gave rise to Calcutta Walks, walking tours through the city’s heritage and cultural hotspots. His team call themselves ‘explorers’ who try to encourage people from around the world to experience the joys of their city.