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Kolkata's coffee house weeps for its balladeer
By Anurag Dey
Kolkata's coffee house weeps for its balladeer
PHOTO : Thirty years back Manna Dey recorded 'Coffee Houser Sei Addata Aaj Aar Nei' capturing the 'golden late afternoons' spent by seven friends

There were the routine chat sessions around the tables, but in hushed tones. The waiters served customers in their usual sluggish manner, but seemed markedly slower. For Kolkata's famous intellectual hub Coffee House was in mourning at the passing away of Manna Dey who rendered the famous song that for generations has been regarded as its anthem.

Thirty years back Dey recorded "Coffee Houser sei addata aaj ar nei" (The chat sessions at the Coffee House have faded away) capturing the "golden late afternoons" spent by seven friends at the joint and the successes, frustrations, tragedies and disappointments which in their later lives.

The song, which told the story of artist Nikhilesh, guitarist D'souza, journalist Moidul, wannabe poet Amol, has steeped with nostalgia generations of Kolkatanas - who spent such golden moments of their youth and student lives in coffee houses with dreams of a new world order or a career of creativity, only to lose their way in the labyrinth of harsh reality.

"Today, truly the coffee house chat sessions got over. Coffee House lost its soul. Not only me, but whoever ever visited Coffee house will realise this.

"Coffee house will remain... so will remain the chat sessions, but the man who made them immortal is now no more," Suparnakanti Ghosh, who had composed the song penned by Gouriprasanna Majumdar to music, told IANS.

On Thursday, a portrait of Dey was put up inside the joint on College Street and garlanded, with the aroma of incense sticks filling the air. Some of the youths played the song on their mobile phones.

At the entrance, a flex paid tributes to Dey. "Legendary singer Manna Dey is no more. He will never take part in the Coffee house chat sessions. On behalf of he Cofee house family, we pray for his soul to rest in peace".

"Every time I hear the song, I remember my college friends. Some are doing well and some have gone away from this world. It is a beautiful song of remembrance. It gives me joy and sorrow," said a one-time regular Shaheed Ansar.

Situated at the heart of Kolkata, opposite the Presidency College, the Indian Coffee House was commissioned in 1942 by the Indian Coffee Board. Rechristened "Coffee House" in 1947, it emerged as the meeting place for the poets, artistes, literati and people from the world of art and culture.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many left leaders held brain storming sessions at the Coffee House, while the Maoists or Naxalites as they were called, held court in the late 1960s and 1970s trying to woo the best brains to their doctrine of an armed revolution. 

Animated discussions on sundry topics amid the smoke of infusion (black coffee) and baked fish, still mark the Coffee House.

"MannaDeyis like a fixed asset of Coffee House. He and Coffee House are synonymous. The song is our anthem. Many foreign media houses have done story on coffee house and they too have described the song as Coffee House anthem," said Dipankar Dasgupta, coffee house administrative officer.

"We have paid our tribute by garlanding his photo in the joint. We are also planning to organise a programme in his honour," said Dasgupta.

He recalled Dey last visited the Coffee House in 2010.

Several old timers at the Coffee House grieved.

Said internationally famous filmmaker Mrinal Sen: "I had sat many a times at Coffee House and the song even today reminds me of my younger days. Why only me? The song is an anthem for every Kolkatan who has gone to coffee house. It is a sad day for music, Kolkata, and may be the whole country".

Echoed Communist Party of India-Marxist central committee member Md Salim. "Every time one hears the song, it makes you go back to those old days... This song is timeless.

"I used to sit in coffee house during my college days and now my son goes there . Today is a sad day. Coffee house er adda has lost its soul."

Twitted actress Paoli Dam: "Coffee house er shei adda ta aaj aar nei'... the legend passes away! Manna Dey...RIP."

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