Monday, October 6, 2008

How to exist on ten cups a day

Okay, Coffeewallah. So all the curious know, that's my made up name for the coffee shop that I plan to open sometime. As a teenager, on those days up in the cocoa, one of the books that shaped my conscious, and there were quite a few of them, was Plain Tales from the Raj. This was a collection of stories from survivors of the British Raj in India after independence. The book was an adjunct to a radio series by the BBC and made real the stories of Kipling. One of the things that caught my notice, tea sellers on trains were called Chai Wallahs, Wallah being a vendor. I liked it and that's the genesis of the Coffeewallah. For a long time my dreams and plans for this shop was the thing that kept my imagination alive and kept me from going nuts on a series of half hearted jobs.

Early in my twenties I had a moment of idiocy and got married to someone I'd known for most of my life. It was just one of those things, in the past, done. We were married for eight years and it was a bitter-sweet time. We were doomed pretty much before we got started, by his family and in a way, by mine. We used to think we were kindred souls fighting the status quo, but really, it was more about him having someone to control; me. I'm not terribly controllable at the best of times but I suffered it to be so until I could no more and then I fled. But the coffee thing, how does that fit? While we were married I used to work from home for stretches at a time. We had an expresso maker and being an inveterate drinker of coffee, a left over from the television days when you drank coffee to stay awake, to edit, to stay warm in the cold editing suites and for any reason you could think of; coffee on tap was the order of the day. It was my thing.

And so it has remained. I LOVE coffee. It is not an addiction in the true sense of the word, more a guilty pleasure that I have very little guilt about. In the days post the break up of my marriage, I moved back to my grandparents house, my folks were long gone and my brothers both lived outside of Trinidad, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it was, for them and me. We got to find that middle ground that had been so lacking in our relations for a long time. My Granddad especially, I'd become his protector after his first heart attack a year earlier, from his doctors, the family and for him, as keeper of my grandmother. The two of us would sit over the breakfast table, me with the steaming cup of coffee from the brew my uncle made in a pot, him pushing toast and vitamins at me to try to get me to eat, talking about plans. About the coffee shop, he started to share my dream and we'd talk about how it would look, the water feature tinkling in the back, the smell of freshly ground coffee always, the arab music. He would talk about the places he'd visited on his travels around the world. It was magical and one day, after I'd come home from an exceptionally long day at work, he pulled out my "sign". He'd gone up the road to his friend who wrote Arabic better than he did and got a stylised version of Coffeewallah in Arabic script. That's when I really knew it was going to be real.

My granddad died not too long after that, there were no more mornings over the coffee, my grannie would sit with me while I drank mine and talk about her life with him. I still have the bristol board 'sign', it's moved house with me almost a dozen times, one of these days it's going over the door of my shop. Coffeewallah is also my nickname, she is my alter ego, the exciting girl that I was and will be again when I give up my current lark and return to flip flops and jeans.

See, nothing to worry about.


Gabriela García Calderón said...

Once again, you really moved me with your writing. And I'm pretty sure you'll get to open that coffee shop you've planning for years.
Hopefully, because no one knows where life may take us, I'll visit you in that coffee shop. And even though I'm not a coffee person, we'll have a drink or two together.
Regrads from Peru!

Gabriela García Calderón said...

Hello again:
Check this out.

Wuzdescene said...

Gabriela's comments remind me ... of when I too ... first stumbled upon your blog ... and became completely captivated by your writing ...

Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like this blog.
Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
A hug from Portugal

Marcus Basanta said...

That simple post was the most moving thing I have read in a long time. It took you very few words to portray what was obviously an extremely strong emotional link to your late grandad.

As a caffeine hyped person myself (drinking coffee from age 9), I believe that we each have a little bit of the "coffeewallah" in us. I treasure the chats my wife and I have in the morning over a fresh cup of cofffee.

Please open your shop soon. We desperately need coffee made with more love in it and not made with vile thoughts from an overworked, underpaid Rituals barista (remember this is still 'pizza boys') who doesnt even drink coffee anyway.

I love your blog and it is one of three that I follow.

Coffeewallah said...

Wow, I'm always awed when people read my blog and take the time to comment.

Gabriela, gracias tanto por todos sus comentarios encantadores, usted me hacen sonrisa la mayoría de los días. You're also making me practice my Spanish!

'Scene, we're even. You say the things I want to a lot of the time.

Anastacio, obrigado e o hug grande para trás em você. I know my Portugese sucks, but it's been a long time.

Marcus, or as you shall now be known, Coffeedude, can't wait to see you over the counter. The more I write about the shop the more I want it! It's been a long time in the making. It's going to be a place where coffee people are truly welcome,none of that leaving a pot on the burner to cook crap.