Based on oral history, fiction, interesting intellectual gossip, and records of the Coffee Board of India, Much Ado Over Coffee: Indian Coffee House Then and Now is a many-sited description of the Indian Coffee House, possibly the world’s first coffee house chain.
The book offers interestingly written accounts of the addas or informal meetings, of the educated middle class in the cities of Calcutta, Allahabad and Delhi. Addas initially flourished in the neighbourhood tea shops, and then switched to the newly created coffee houses.
Readers will encounter their favourite writers, and other famous people at close quarters here. Bhaswati Battacharya brings to life the lanes and by-lanes of these cities as they were then, through the sheer gift of her ethnographic skills.
Some workers, now forgotten but who were once immensely popular with the regular visitors of the coffee houses, live on again on these pages bringing back old memories. In this context one should perhaps mention that in an interesting departure, some footnotes in this book are used to carry video links of luminaries visiting these coffee houses.Change has set in here too as everywhere else.
Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a senior academic fellow affiliated with the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at Georg August University, Göttingen. Her publications include Bhattacharya et al., The Diary and Photographs of Jan Kornelis De Cock During his Trip to India, 1909-1910, Leiden: Roel of Barkhuis, 2014; Bhattacharya, Gita Dharampal-Frick and Jos Gommans (eds.),‘The World of Asian Commerce: Temporal and Spatial Continuities’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 50 (2007): 2-3.
1. Adda and Public Spaces of Sociability before the ICH;Adda: A Universal Social Practice?; Adda in the Current Context; Delhi; Allahabad; Calcutta; Conclusion
2. India Coffee House: A New Space in the City; The Birth of the India Coffee House; Everyday Practices in the New Urban Space; Democracy in ICH and the Bhadralok; Adda: Space of Dominion and Invisible Hierarchy; Semiotics of the Coffee House; The Coffee House and Imagination; Conclusion
3. The Workers and the Coffee House: From ‘India’ to ‘Indian’; The Coffee Board, the Internal Market and the Coffee House; The Formation of the Coffee Board Labour Union; From India to Indian: The Struggle for Survival; The ICWCSL and the ICH; Functioning; Challenges to Overcome; Conclusion
4. The Indian Coffee House and the World of Literature; Calcutta: All Roads Led to the Coffee House?; Hungry Generation Movement; Shruti and Shastrabirodhi Movement; Shotojol Jhornar Dhwoni; Moheener Ghoraguli; Allahabad: The Place of Literary Pilgrimage; The Crowd at the Coffee House; What Was All That Ado About?; Delhi: The Capital of Hindi Literature; The Performers of the Coffee-Tea House Act; And the Act Stimulated by Coffee; Conclusion
5. Brewing Discontent Instead of Coffee?; Politics and the Indian Coffee House; The PRRM; The Naxalbari Movement in Calcutta and ICH; The Liberation War of Bangladesh; The Emergency; Conclusion
6. How Public is the Public Space of the Indian Coffee House?; Women and the Public Space of the Coffee House; The Pioneers in Calcutta; Delhi; Allahabad; Accommodating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities (LGBT); Conclusion
7. The Middle Class and Coffee Houses: Old and New; The New Coffee Cafés; The Middle Class: New versus Old; The Old Connoisseurs of the Coffee House; Is the Tradition of Adda Finally Dead?; The Current Visitors of the Coffee House; The Political Economy and the Cooperative; Conclusion
Indian Coffee House through Photographs