She is sitting alone on a small circular table by the large glass-paned window. A light rain is pouring outside. The cafe is crowded. There are old couples, a crowd of bachelors and young girls gossping in groups of threes. They are eating different snacks- brown breadies, peanut loaf, orange cantenbury, Paneer sausages and the new favourites- Trickle Tart. But more diverse are the coffees. All the ubiquitous varieties from every corner of the world are brewed and served here. “And it all began fifty two years and nine months ago”, she remembers,”With two cups of coffee.”
It was eight in the evening. The last customer had paid his bill and gone away. In this small town, all fell silent quickly and nobody was to be seen outside after fifteen past eight. Business was bad. The new restaurant on the other side of the road had taken away all the customers.
She cleared away the tables. She was shivering slightly in the cold. She took a last glance of the restaurant which had snatched away one of the two meagre meals she had managed in the past and went in.
Chacha had lit a fire in the chimney and seemed to be brewing something, probably tea. He looked with a sad smile on the shivering girl wrapped in a torn shawl which had once belonged to her long dead mother. He motioned her to sit near the burning fire. She obeyed. With a sad glance towards the fire she thought,” How long would we be able to afford the firewood to light the chimney?” Chacha was looking at her.
She turned,”Is there no way out?”
“Conditions will improve my dear. Conditions will improve.”
The old man passed his hand through the girl’s thin curly hair in an affectionate gesture. “God shall light the way. But you look cold my dear.Let me serve you the brew your father has sent as your New Year gift.”, said Chacha while putting the brew into the cup
“Father has?”,her eyes instantly lit up.
She drank the brownish thing in the cup. It was bitter but warming.
“What is it?”, she asked.
“Coffee, it is very rare up here. It comes from Karnataka”
There was a malevolent glint in the child’s eyes,”We are going to destroy the restaurant’s business. Can you ask father to send more of ‘coffee’, lots more?”
“No girl we are not destroying anybody’s business.”
“Fine then lets raise our own business”
“What does it have to do with coffee?”
“You would see.”
“Well, its the only thing you have ever asked for.Lets see.”
Chacha wrote a letter which journeyed to a small house of a big slum in Karnataka. The person who received the letter satisfied his daughter’s only demand not knowing what use the products he has sent would have.
In Dhaba a new poster announced that a cup of coffee shall be served free if you eat a meal of Rs 25. People passed by but nobody noticed the dhaba’s announcement. In the evening regular customers came cloaked in woolen sweaters, hats and mufflers. These were the people who would search the whole town for the cheapest good. They ate their meal together and talked about local politics and criticized his or her shoes, hats or their body smell. It was followed by mimicry of Mrs.Sunita the English teacher who always liked to give everybody lectures in English whether they understood it or not. Then the coffee arrived. Everybody was mesmerized by the drink’s taste and warmth. Now they came every day and the praise of the brew spread from mouth to mouth till it had enough fame. A month went by and more and more customers poured in. The hot chocolaty coffee became the addiction of those who could not afford brandy and some of those whose who could. Now coffee began to be charged Rs.10.
Regular supplies of coffee came from her father and he was payed duly. At the time she began experiments with coffee. She brewed coffee adding different ingredients to it- From cardamon, choco chips,etc to vinegar and wine. she named it the special drink. She even took ideas from foreign TV shows. The special drink became the trend of the the place.
Now she became to improve the dhaba so that it became a cafeteria with a very different and elegant look. By the time the restaurant on the other side could start importing coffee her cafe became an abstract piece of architecture. Though small the room had large glass panes to let the sunlight come in while harsh wind remained out. It had small round tables all over the room. The two sitters were placed near the glass window on the opposite side of road so that the couples could enjoy the scenic view. On other side there were separate family booths. Noe this cafe became the main attraction of the hungry people poor or rich, miser or not. It had coffee and toast for everyone.
There had been a small loss the first year of Rs.2730, the second showed a minimal profit of Rs.5000 and the next year showed a comparatively larger profit of Rs.10,963. After six years when she turned 18 and had already employed a manager and two waiters she decided it was time for expansion. the tiny cafe could would no longer be able to control the Christmas rush. This time she chose a plot at the center of the town. This became a success. This cafe now handled more customers than the previous one. In the successive four years she opened four successive cafes in the center or tourist spot of four successive towns. She chose to employ women as cooks who had less experience and more eagerness to experiment. So the items on the menu expanded as their price increased. The prices increased till people began to resist spending money on their favorite drink. The price was again lowered to a level liked best by the middle class and the owner.
Later coffee became the cash crop of the area. Now money began to be saved more. Profits increased and so did the no of coffee addicts. Like this the coffee empire expanded in the top of two hills- now known as the Capulus hills. Now the cafe has the biggest chain in India. The origin of this cafe is not known to anybody.
A lot can happen over two cups of coffee.