I must confess, I hadn't heard
VG Siddhartha's name until my foray into business journalism 4 years ago. I was, however, wholly familiar with Cafe Coffee Day and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it provided a backdrop to some of my life's most pivotal moments.
As a teenager, my first social outing with a girl was at the CCD in Hyderabad's Begumpet - the reason I wouldn't go so far as to call it a date is because the thought of meeting a girl alone at 14 was almost taboo in 2007, so it ended up being 3 boys and 3 girls sitting down at one of the café's bigger tables, and then quickly pairing off and moving to the more intimate square tables where we'd seen love blossom many times before. I wasn't a big fan of coffee, opting instead for the signature Cool Blue, a slushie infused with Blue Curaçao. The girl in question got a Devil's Own, which in hindsight was more dessert than coffee. The 'relationship' went nowhere, although I'm sure CCDs country-wide have been responsible for many couplings, but I do owe thanks to Siddhartha for delightful adolescent memories - my first brain freeze, the apprehension in my stomach leading up to the arrival of the bill, laughing at the signs that said "A lot can happen over coffee" in the bathrooms and most importantly, the comforting feeling of having a safe space for teenagers like me to do teenage things.
In the summer of 2010, when I moved to Mumbai, my first group project meeting in college was held at the CCD in Dadar's Shivaji Park. I took a bus from my grandparents' house in Versova and must have passed 5 or 6 CCDs just to get to my destination! It was my first insight into the sheer scale of Mumbai - a city with more than 6 CCDs was intimidating to me. I would find out over the course of my 9 years here that there were much more than 6 CCDs in Mumbai - I've visited at least 8 of them, and the one at Bandra's Carter Road remains my favourite.
The last time I went to a CCD was a few months ago. I complained about the amount of sugar in my coffee, the lacklustre sandwiches and the annoyance of having teenage couples all around me. Looking back, I think CCD has remained fairly consistent and maybe I'm the one who's changed. In simpler times, when the most complex thing on my mind was figuring out how to secure a 500 rupee note for my next date, not much else weighed me down. Last night, I was kept awake by the knowledge of terms like 'debt trap' and coming to grips with the undiagnosed mental health epidemic in this country, that doesn't seem to care about caste, religion, age, sex or indeed, financial stature.
VG Siddhartha, I'm sorry I didn't know your name until a few years ago, although I feel like that's the way you wanted it. I'm sorry that people in CCDs around the country will be a little less carefree than they were a day before yesterday. I think you were being a bit modest when you put up signs that said "A lot can happen over coffee", choosing to make coffee the central focus of your marketing strategy. Coffee was never the central focus at CCD. The experiences were. So I'm going to correct that slogan for you, sir. A lot has happened at CCD. Rest in peace.