Not too long ago in many south Indian towns it was common sight to see social gatherings around coffee shops sitting on benches enjoying their coffee and chit chatting. It was a time before the digitization of social life. People would look forward to the evening “Kaapi Katte” (loosely translates to coffee bench) conversations sharing the news they read, consoling their friends going through a low or just giving gyaan (loose advise) on the smallest matters on what to buy or macroeconomic discussions on how the leaders should run the government.
Long gone are those Kaapi Kattes but long live the filter Kaapi. It is worthwhile to understand the history of how coffee entered India. It is said that a saint named Baba Budaan who had travelled to the middle east, managed to smuggle some coffee beans while coming back. It is said that the coffee beans were a closely controlled commodity in the middle east in those times and they did not want to give away the secret behind the drink. Baba Budaan who returned to his home town Chickmagalur is said to have initiated the cultivation of coffee in that area which continues to be a region that grows Arabica coffee beans. There is even a mountain named after Baba Budaan called Bababudangiri. The Indian version of coffee has a different recipe. The beans is roasted, ground along with Chicory (10 – 30 %) depending on taste. Then the decoction is mixed in hot milk to deliver what is today popular as “Filter Kaapi”. This is more prominent in south Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Filter coffee is often served in small steel cups the slightly bigger than the regular espresso shot cups.
One of the weekends I visited an old restaurant in Mysore which was one of the first to bring in the drive-in concept. You could drive into this restaurant and chose to be served in the parking lot, which was a cool place lined up with trees and lot of shade and enjoy breakfast and coffee. People would literally hang out in this drive-in restaurant for hours and it is said that a lot of business and political discussions, strategy and deals happened here. On this weekend I decided to go into the restaurant instead of having breakfast in my car. A friend from Bengaluru was with me and the restaurant was a culture shock for him. We were in a bit if a hurry as my friend had to go to finish some work, but we spent almost an hour having breakfast that day. What happened that day taught me several lessons I still share with friends.
An old man probably retired and in his mid-60’s came and sat at the table next to us. He had probably just finished his Sunday morning walk and come to have breakfast. He did not speak a word. After a while, the waiter served him “Vada Sambar” (spicy donut dipped in soup). This old man was probably a regular at this place and, I guess all the waiters there knew him and his standard order. He took his own sweet time to enjoy the dish. After he finished that, again without uttering a word, he had his next order served on the table, a “Masala Dosa” (kind of spicy pan cake, served with chutney). Again, he took his own time to finish it and truly enjoyed it. Then the waiter served him the classic filter coffee. The way he enjoyed the filter coffee sip after sip, truly showcased the lifestyle of the beautiful town of Mysuru. Every sip was enjoyed to the core, with a good break after each sip as though the after taste of the coffee is the best part. Yet again one more deep sip.
Today, we talk about artificial intelligence, data mining and your social profile which are then used to provide you with a product or service that really pleases you. It is amazing to see how so many of our social feeds are tailored (or many times biased) to what we would like. When I think about the above incident, I really begin to question myself, were these aspects in the society not there before? Or is it really coming back to us in a more scalable way where you can have such great customer experiences irrespective of where you are and who are around you?
Now, coming to the biggest lesson I learnt from the above experience, is what I truly believe in these days. Do not think too much about your destiny, what is more important is: Did you enjoy the journey? The worlds technology and hence the social fabric is so fast changing, what is trendy today is obsolete is a matter of years if not months, so a goal that you set today as a long term goal for say 5 years from now, will be irrelevant when you get there. Hence, what really matters is how you enjoyed the journey.