By the time I was doing my post-grad, the in-thing was to share email ids, re-draft resumes with our email contacts added to our address and phone numbers. Any incoming mail into the inbox made us felt wanted, cherished and remembered. Mails would be checked every alternate day and the sense of immediacy we felt then was something to be cherished. Today, my mails are delivered to my phone, moments after the sender dispatched them. And today, I marvel over how people still do send postcards and letters to keep the craft of writing intact. In fact, I can't remember writing anything longer than a few words on a cheque in months if not years. I digress as usual..So getting back, Greeting cards got replaced by FREE e-cards...Clever messages could be sent for free and the roaring business that Archies cards had at a relatively huge shop near our college kind of took a massive hit to its business.
Till then, going to an ice-cream parlour was the idea of spending time or treating friends. In Kochi, there was the Caravan ice cream parlour - the first one to serve sophisticated ice-creams and sundaes. It was a treat to receive permission from my mom to go there with classmates for someone's treat. It meant being an adult, taking a bus from where I stayed, getting down at the stop nearing Caravan and walking with my head held high and money that Amma had given me earlier in the morning, jiggling in my purse. Asking for the bill and then taking money out of the purse is a rite to adulthood. Much as I hate to have to go through that ritual now that I am a 'fully-matured' adult, while growing up - being allowed to behave like adults held so much thrill. Having the bus conductor, the waiter treat you the way you have seen them treat your parents makes you feel like you have finally arrived on the social scene..
McDonalds was our dream treat while in college and I'd often pamper the kid in me by ordering the Happy Meal. I must say I had a fancy collection of Happy Meal soft-toys and other collectibles. I couldn't be bothered to feel embarrassed about standing in line behind a bunch of kids, scrambling for those very toys that the twenty year old me was eyeing. I don't think the concept of stepping into a coffee shop for coffee existed in my lexicon till I began working.
I was talking about visiting coffee-shops with a friend, when she told about how her mom refused to have a seventy-bucks coffee at the newly opened Barista near her house in Delhi, more than a decade ago. Her brother had just received his first appointment letter as a new graduate and taking his mom to the swank new Coffee Shop was his way of declaring he had arrived and how. But a horror-stricken middle class mom refusing to touch the scaldingly priced coffee would have been a personal nightmare.
While growing up, the Indian Coffee House and its other local versions were our ideas of coffee shops. The liveried waiters bringing us cutlets and coffee in chipped cups and saucers was a great idea of eating out. It was a treat reserved for my birthdays. By the time Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days arrived on the scene, we had learnt that coffee-shopping was a mark of sophistication. The ability to differentiate between an espresso, cappucino and latte was a declaration that you are worldly and a force to be reckoned with among your peer group.
However, the truth is, most of us knew the cheapest priced burgers on the McDonald's menu and on the Barista boards. The idea was to be able to talk about having a McDonald meal or a Barista coffee. It didn't really matter that you had the most expensive one.In fact, by the time Costa Coffee made its presence felt in India, hanging out in coffee-shops had become a rite of passage for school and college-going kids. The bakeries of Kochi now wear a tired, shabby look. On every other corner, there is either a coffee shop or an ice-cream parlour. Most offer free wi-fi and the luxury of whiling away time without being asked to vacate like from your nearest busy Udupi hotel. Unlike the Udupis, where the number of customers served translated to profits, coffee-shop chains made money from frequented patronage and as hangout joints.
Today, on a Monday morning, I'm seated in a cozy Mocha, waiting to catch up with a friend for lunch even as I get some work done in the three hours before I meet her. The fact that there is no wi-fi currently available at this coffeeshop is a downer, but I'm armed with my own internet dongle. We cannot afford to be disconnected from the cyber-world for long. So we make our own provisions for wi-fi now.
Someone gets me a beautifully brewed cup of chai along with some bun-muska. As I munch on breakfast and compile my to-do list for the day, I realise ek post toh banta hai. After all, life as we have known it is changing fast. One chronicle of the lost times and the new life we are forging is necessary. However, I am one to embrace change. There is little that is not good and lots that can be bettered. So here is to Coffee Shop Culture and working out of them and not being bound to stuffy, cribby offices... :)
Have a happy week my bloggies ( shortened version of blog buddies ;)