Coffee and cacophony: Kolkata's College Street secret brewing for ages

#1 Aug 7th, 2018, 22:22
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Coffee and cacophony: What characterises College Street Coffee House (Photo: India Today)

Can someone actually climb a corporate ladder and reach the top starting from a modest background? Only through hardwork? I was wondering as I have come across such stories in Dale Carnegie’s books. Are these mere stories?

No, it’s possible, said Zaheed Hussain. “When I started, I used to wash plates. Then I became a cook, and now I am managing the cash counter,” Zaheed said. Zaheed is an employee of the Indian Coffee House, College Street, Kolkata. His father joined the coffee house in 1953. In 1976, Zaheed joined as a washer boy.

“This is the rule. Whoever joins here joins as a plate washer. Later they can choose their role. There is no gradation of work. We all get equal salaries. And apart from sweeping and floor cleaning, everyone has to do every kind of work,” said Zaheed.

But waiters get tips! So, they can earn more?

“No,” said Zaheed.

“At the end of the day, each and everyone deposits the tips at a single place and divide equally. Remember, it is run by a co-operative, so none enjoys any privilege over another.”

There are 300-odd seats in two floors.

Crowd starts pouring in around afternoon. You will rarely find any seat empty here. Waiters climbing up and down to serve the customers round the clock and various groups of people looking for a place to park themselves present a usual picture.

At one point of a time, the Coffee Board was unwilling to run it. But that never stopped the brewing. A co-operative was formed. With coffee and snacks, it became quite a hotbed for the intellectual brewing of the city.

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#2 Aug 7th, 2018, 23:37
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I loved that place. I am planning a major trip for 2019 and must get back to Kolkata!
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#3 Aug 8th, 2018, 03:02
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I wish I could get back the hundreds of hours I spent there drinking "infusion" (black coffee, the cheapest way to stay as long as one wanted) while my classes were in session across the street. Maybe then I would have made something of myself.

There's something apparently edited out of the photo, the cloud of cigarette smoke hanging over the room. I haven't been back in decades, but I am told that it is one place where the no-smoking-in-public-places rule has turned out to be unenforceable. I guess I won't be going back.
#4 Aug 8th, 2018, 06:03
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This looks so clean, it seems like photoshopped. Last time I was there; Carter was still the president. There were walls with glued in posters and slogans. And tables were in no order....
#5 Aug 8th, 2018, 06:25
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Was there in 2000. Bough a book on college street and had a cup of coffee and a samosa for afters.
#6 Aug 8th, 2018, 12:07
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Having a coffee with IM member biman in 2011 at the Coffee House.

Pic is not the sharpest sorry.
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Kolkata & Kerala 2011 027.jpg 
#7 Aug 8th, 2018, 12:10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sama View Post I loved that place. I am planning a major trip for 2019 and must get back to Kolkata!
I too am hoping to return to Kolkata next year, would be great to catch up for coffee or a drink. Could be around Oct ?
#8 Aug 8th, 2018, 21:39
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oooh, sorry! My plans are not set in stone yet! But I would not leave for India 'til November 2019, hitting Mumbai first!

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