An annual tradition held few weeks before May; I remember rushing home from school, to finish my daily quota of studies and homework, all to keep the evenings free for the inevitable creative ventures planned for Rabindra Jayanti – the birthday of Tagore.

How Tagore’s Love For Strange Food Paved The Path For the Modern-Day Adda!
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Hours would pass and evenings would fade into late nights, yet we all would continue perfecting the steps, running the lines and adjusting the pitch, alongside steaming cups of tea and an ever-flowing supply of deliciously crispy shingaras (samosa).

Amidst all the hard work, it was off-track addas and interesting trivia on Tagore shared by elder members that kept us oblivious to the outside world.

“What comings and goings we used to see: how merry were the rooms and verandahs with the hum of conversation and the snatches of laughter!” someone would spontaneously recite, quoting Tagore’s memoir, Jibansmriti (My Reminiscences).

The nostalgic piece gives a peek into the formative years of the great poet and encapsulates his long conversations with sister-in-law Kadambari Devi, brother Jyotirindranath and many friends like poet Bharilal Chakravarti.

Known as an exceptional conversationalist, Tagore’s memoir emphasised on the importance of ‘majlis’ or ‘adda’, predicting how it would become an integral part of Bengali cultural discourse in the following years.

A part of Bengali parlance, ‘adda’ on the one hand involves long engaging conversations based on rational arguments, dialogue and comic expression, on the other, it manifests itself as an artistic and tasteful display of an individual’s wit, intellectual prowess and humour, all at the same time.

“His fortitude and his kindly sense of humour remained with him till the end. Those who attended on his sick-bed treasured as their greatest reward the pleasantries and witticisms he constantly exchanged with them,” writes Krishna Kripalani (Tagore’s biographer) in her account of the poet’s final days.

According to the students of his institute in Shantiniketan, Tagore was known for his skilful use of rhetorical devices like puns and metaphors juxtaposing them with altered syntactic patterns, and this eventually led adda to become an educational tool.
Interestingly, it was a tradition for them to gather around Tagore as he engaged in storytelling, word-games and various light-hearted literary exercises often encouraging students to join in.