Much Ado About Adda

Iffat brings the definition of Adda perfectly — “sense of lightness, of wholehearted laughs and clever jokes, of juicy gossips and inactiveness, sitting pretty with a moving mouth-Bengalis definition of a perfectly wonderful time, doing Adda.” Too bad she contradicts herself later saying “Addas aren’t meant for criticizing absent individuals”. But an integral part of adda is gossiping — and is gossiping about someone really possible with the person being present? Last time I checked, it caused fistfights.

Jokes aside, I have often thought about why we so rarely have quality addas here (in foreign land) like good old days in Bangladesh. Yes, as Iffat states, there are high-minded know-it-alls which kill the spirit of addas. But putting everyone in that same bracket and blaming individuals as the reason for the demise of adda in the foreign land would be a little to simplistic. Did the addabajes from Bangladesh suddenly lose their appetite for adda when they moved here? Not really. Its just that they haven’t found each other.

When I think of adda of my good old college days in Dhaka, I think of the lazy Fridays sitting with my friends and talking and arguing about nothing — frequent laughter, jokes, puns with topics ranging from gossips to politics to sports to the latest Chuck Norris movies. I even remember in one of the very exciting adda sessions had an item where we had a competition of swearing. In pure Bangla, its called ‘khisti’. The objective of the game was to pick a winner who could khisti the longest and the most creative ones got the top award (which was a ‘gono dholai’ from the participants). This is not to give away wrong impression about my social background 🙂 but rather to show silly nature of these addas. So whatever happened to these people? Those same people moved to the States. How come we can’t have the same kind of exciting adda sessions? Because here we don’t get to choose our Bengali friends. We are “friends” here because we happened to be Bangalies who happened to be residing in the same geographical location. In Bangladesh, the same high-minded know-it-alls whom we would never associate with is part of our “circle of friends” here because he happens to live 3 blocks away from my home. As a result, there is always this mistrust and insecurity among the members of this circle. Not having apprehension of being judged by your fellow adda mates — the element, which is an essential part of careless Addas, is missing here. So, the joke can never be too raunchy. The backhanded pot shot at the other guy can never be too sharp. And the gossips? They are just not that juicy. Add to that, the other pressures of being an immigrant Bangali in a foreign land. Yes, I am talking about the pressure of “competition” between your peer group in the field of triathlon (House, Jobs and “success” of your talented children). With all that tension, is it possible to have a carefree Adda session about nothing.

However, it does not take much longer for a Bangali to find the perfect addamate. Before long, you get to become close to the people you are most comfortable with and form an inner circle inside that circle. Just then when there is one more reason to be friends with someone other than the geographical affinity, the seeds of potential future addas are sown. In New York, those who have been to Hasan Ferdous bhai and Ranu bhabi’s place, know exactly what I mean. In fact, Abdullah Abu Sayeed wrote a whole book about one of such adda nights called (“New Yorker Adda”). Having said that, I am thinking of the other essential item of good addas — the food. Ahhh, the famous “roshona bilash” of Bangalees. If it were not for the mouthwatering food that Ranu bhabi prepared, would these addas be as “jompesh”? May be not. Recently a group of us went for a retreat in the mountains. It was a weekend of being far away from the city at the remotest of places. Some of us painfully made sure that all the ingredients of a good adda are present. They included jhal muri, dal, mashla cha, begun bhorta, alu bhorta, khichuri, aam and dim bhuna (oh yes, and also a ‘doraj gola’ for singing). Whola…..Good food, remote house, good company with no fear of being judged, (and a little bit alcohol too) produced 15 sleep deprived adda addicts by the end of the weekend.

So there you go Iffat, I am sure your days of having adda by yourself will be over soon. It’s not the people who are at fault. It’s a little bit of lack of everything and our failure to recreate the surrounding that is to blame. Just like a horror story is scariest when all the elements are present (Andhokar rate loadshedding-er shomoy chader opore), an Adda needs all its ingredients to be a good one. You might ask why you would have to give so much effort to create something that happened so naturally back home. Ahhh — well, that’s the price we pay for not being in Bangladesh. There has to be a cost, isn’t it? When you don’t have the real thing, you might as well try to recreate the set as realistically as possible!


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