When Cuckoo News editor Dola Mitra dropped in at the Artsy – Coffee and Culture (“led there by the aroma of coffee and cake” in her own words) she decided to write her next book or at least a few chapters of it sitting by one of the windows of this cosy cafe. When Cuckoo News Global Editor Koli Mitra checked out the photographs and a short video clip that Dola had sent her, Koli penned a reflective piece of her own sitting at her desk by the window in Manhattan, New York. Here is the fusion piece which emerged:
There is a window in Kolkata. On sunny days, green trees that line the narrow street beyond glow golden. On rainy days, drizzle make the leaves dazzle like drops of diamond. It’s the kind of window you sit by with a cup of coffee and read for hours. Or write. Or get lost in your thoughts.
Virginia Woolf recognized the importance of uninterrupted solitude as the backdrop of creativity. “A room of one’s own” was what the artist and intellectual needed, she said. She was absolutely right. But it’s also true that the creative pursuit requires that room to have a window…. it requires not just solitude but also engagement with the world and even community (if and when one chooses it).
That’s what makes the “Artsy” cafe such a perfect place for artists of all kinds –writers, sculptors, musicians– to get some of their creative juices flowing. You can write that next chapter while sipping coffee and biting into a delicious “hot banana and walnut tea cake”; form that image you’ll paint, as you look out the window; get inspired by the shelves and shelves of books or the eclectic (and periodically changed) art that fill the beautifully rustic, textured walls.
The ambiance is like an artist’s workspace and cozy home library. There are easels with canvases and a windowsill-nook with a retro sewing machine and another with a vintage typewriter, for example. There is an overall feeling of comfort. You’re there for the art–yours and others’– but also to pamper yourself! Walk around with your latte and check out the artwork (paintings, drawings and sketches on the walls change according the artist being exhibited). Or pick up one of the books from the shelves and sink into the plush emerald sofas, that seem to harmonize with the lush potted plants and hanging vines that decorate the space.
The cafe “Artsy – Coffee and Culture ” is tucked away in a by-lane off the meandering A.J.C. Bose Road. It is often discovered by passing Kolkatans by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked cake. And once you’ve walked in, an entire world opens up. It is a space where artists can exhibit their work for free. Musicians can perform live for free. The only cost is food and drink. The prices are fair and the fare is priceless.
The menu is created with obvious care. Not just the varieties of coffee and cake but snacks such as sandwiches and omelettes and beverages which include tea and fizzy iced drinks. All served up by smiling, friendly girls and boys ready to make helpful suggestions. “Try the espresso butter,” says young Rohan, for instance. It was delicious with the brownie.
Started in 2017 by Manjyot Kaur and her son Arshdeep Singh, the cafe captures the essence of Kolkata’s reputation as the unofficial cultural capital of the country. “We wanted to create a space where creativity would be celebrated, with art, literature, music and conversation,” says Manjyot.