My mother will be suspicious and unconvinced, I told myself. She may ask why a proud member of a tea-drinking household would visit a cafe? It was the mid-2000s and I had promised to meet a day-old boyfriend at a Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) to begin our dating tenure.
On a pleasant November afternoon, I set out for central Delhi from east Delhi’s Karkardooma Court area for my first “young-adult (YA)” date. I ordered a ‘Cool Blue’, a fizzy blue-coloured iced concoction, he ordered a cappuccino, and together we split a brownie.
I was nervous about being spotted by a relative or a family friend till I looked around me — the cafe was teeming with YA couples, drinking their coffee as they occupied one of the many cosy corners. There was no one to snitch on us, it was an unspoken pact, one that was made at CCD. A decade before I walked into the cafe for my first YA date, the coffee chain had set up its first cafe in Bangalore in 1996. Since then, CCD has seeped into every cosmopolitan and tier-two and three city.
At CCD, lovers met and parted, friends strummed the guitar late into the night, attempts at writing novels were made, phone numbers on paper napkins were passed and college notes copied. At the time, stricken by young love and rejection, little did we realise the impact that VG Siddhartha — CCD’s founder and owner — would have on the young.
While magazines and newspapers told us we had embraced Siddhartha’s coffee-culture, all we — city kids — were doing was embracing freedom. A relative once lamented that “these CCD type youngsters” lose their path in life, while another proudly announced that since he lets his children hang out at cafes, “he must be modern.”
Over the years, we moved on from CCD to Barista, Cafe Mocha, Costa Coffee, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Blue Tokai. Now, it was a quick highway pitstop which gave access to bathrooms, and a source for an average cup of coffee at a private hospital. Of course, I have stuck to the icy cold ‘Cool Blue’.
On Tuesday, however, as the news of CCD founder missing trickled in, my mind raced back to my early 20s when CCD gave me shelter from a stranger who followed me for half a kilometre in Connaught Place at night. Their staff was kind enough to offer me a cup of coffee, and escort me to the metro station.
And then there was CCD, Chanakyapuri — the queen of all CCDs in Delhi, where the outdoor area has been the most sought after. There was always a fella strumming a guitar there, singing a Bryan Adams song tunelessly. Little did I know how much CCD will impact a tea-drinker, and as one bids farewell to Siddhartha, there is that craving for my icy cold ‘cool blue’.
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