"Rahul Gandhi should shave off his silly stubble. He must flaunt those dimples while campaigning", said Sreya Roy, a second-year student hanging out at the iconic College Street Coffee House with a bunch of friends.
Even as the girls at the table giggled clutching their cellphones, Anjum Khan changed the topic and announced that Bappi Lahiri, Bollywood music composer and BJP candidate from Srerampore, deserved Z-Plus security. But why, the gang immediately pounced on the poker-faced Pathan.
"Because Bappida's gold chains weigh over 10 kg! He is a walking jewellery store, a sitting duck for criminals when he goes canvassing for votes in those narrow lanes and bylanes."
These were the only light-hearted remarks I heard inside the famous cafæcopy; as the young and not-so-young talked about the April-May elections over coffee, tea, omelet and onion pakoras. Not only were there no signs of poll fever but the place was dripping with cynicism and sarcasm. The predominant view seemed to be that elections were just a charade.
Coffee House prices are still dirt cheap compared to CCDs and Baristas. The landmark with very high ceiling where Bengali intellectuals like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Amartya Sen once whiled away their leisure, and which was a hideout for Naxalites on the run, is still a magnet for students, past students, budding poets, painters actors and political activists who gather for addas, Bengali for long informal discussions on every topic under the sun.
Arindam Ganguly, a 40-year-old medical salesman, who once studied at the nearby Calcutta University, said: "I will go to the polling booth only to press the NOTA button. I can't tell you how disgusted I'm with political parties and personalities."
The NOTA option is being introduced for the first time in electronic voting machines across West Bengal, one of the country's most politicized states where communists were entrenched for 34 long years.
Joyeeta Banik, 31, a sociology research scholar, declared that Mamata Banerjee, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal left her cold as "none of them really cared about the poorest of the poor, but wanted to grab power for themselves, a coterie around them and their political formation".
What about the communists? "Communism is good. Marx and Engels are good. But Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury are no good. Do you think CPIM) would have lost (in Bengal) if they were really pro-poor? The poor kicked out the communists", she said.
Outside the Coffee House too, pessimism runs deep. A book seller on the footpath quoted Bengal's greatest living poet Sankho Ghosh--"Ask yourself which party you belong to before you go to sleep"--when asked whom he would vote for in a few weeks from now.