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The Cafe Culture: Brewing Beyond Coffee

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Don't worry, I’m not going to talk about overpriced coffees or exquisite furniture of a cafe. I am discussing coffee shops and cafes today, more as a culture. Spending my first 5 years of independent life in a corporate, I was largely unaware of this culture thriving in Powai. Until of course I left my stable, fat paying, 9-5 job for a more entrepreneurial stint. A stunt, however, would be a more appropriate word for what I pulled off.

That’s when I started visiting cafes, either working from there or meeting people. I soon realized that these places are more than just for coffee or cakes. They have transformed into what we might call as co-working spaces. From freelancers to entrepreneurs, you will find a lot of people doing more than just sipping their coffee. Scenes of Investors conducting their meetings, discussing industry scenarios to entrepreneurs hard selling their ideas are quite common. Not a surprising fact, given after Bengaluru, the next start-ups idea or a copy of the idea is born in the very abode of our Powai. I too have met some really creative and enterprising people there. So if next time, you go to a cafe, you will find entrepreneurs and nerds tucked in various corners with their eyes glued to the laptop screen and ears plugged with music or tie-d professionals discussing numbers.

However, in a fresh change, even the corporates are now following the suit. They are increasingly moving from mundane office meeting rooms to lively halls of cafes. With an increase in the young millennial workforce, senior professionals are seeing cafes as an opportunity for informal interactions and bonding with their younger teammates. On one of the visits, I saw a big group of corporate kids sitting on a large table, spearheaded by their middle-aged boss. The boss, however, mistook the whole coffee shop to his conference room. Perturbed by his loud speech, I started looking around to see if I was the only one getting that complimentary lecture. At that moment, seeing the solo workers sitting quietly with their ears plugged, I realized the importance of carrying a pair of those noise cancelling ear phones.
So the experience is not always very pleasant for the rest of us. Though as the old guy was at least attempting to embrace the new ways of millennial, we should give him that. In ways, I think it represents the changing work culture in India.

Cafes are also the new ladies' kitty party place. Or is it called something else now? Well, apologies to the ladies, but with my small city upbringing, that's what we call the gathering of well-dressed women, chatting or playing games as part of their monthly meeting. However, the cafe version of Kitty is very different from what I have seen growing up. Spring rolls have been replaced with sponge cakes, chai with coffee, sarees with skirts and buns have given way to the perfect blow-dried hair. However, the only thing constant is gossip :D

Teenage has also seen an upgrade. Well, it's more of their pockets actually. Because frankly, teenage since time immemorial has been the age to do stupid stuff or share silly statuses on social media, to be embarrassed in later life. The upgrade on pocket-money however, is significant. I bet if someone could calculate, the teenage pocket-money must have increased more than the inflation rate of our country. I see teenagers frequently thronging these cafes. Something that would have been, once in a blue moon thing during my own teenage, which wasn’t that many years ago. I already feel like a dinosaur, seeing these teenagers posing for an Instagram worthy moment with their cuppa.

Just like in the case of adapting technology, the oldies often accompanying their young prodigies, are learning to order their perfect cup of coffee or trying a new cuisine. I see their sons and daughters patiently and happily explaining the intricacies and references of different dishes.

Thus, Cafés in ways are like mini urban India. They represent the change happening not just in Powai but pan urban India. The new ways of working are fusing in the olden era and lines of office and official are getting blurred. They are also the laboratories of how modern is adapting the traditional and old is storming with the new to form a different kind of culture.

So next time you go to grab your cup of coffee at a Cafe, you know a lot more is brewing there and not just coffee!

(Sugandh is a petroleum engineer turned full-time writer. She also manages her blog www.curiousinkpot.com. You can get in touch with her at sugandh@curiousinkpot.com)