Call it the side effect of being a marketing student, but I seem to have noticed my social anthropologist side get a little more active of late. Human behavior, and a human centric approach to things excite me. I find myself having developed a newfound admiration for psychologists and sociologists, as the complex, intricate process of understanding human motivation, and inspiration is one that intrigues me, making it a topic I know contains so much more to be explored, discovered and learnt about, then I ever possibly will. It never ceases to fascinate me how racial, cultural and geographical factors divide us, leading to such myriad variety in tastes, preferences, motivations and desires, yet the fact that in the end, we’re all humans, with a similar set of emotional, social and psychological needs unites us. Division in Unity. Or the similitude in the dissimilarity.
To be a social anthropologist, you have to well, at least pretend you like humans. And be genuinely interested in what excites them, motivates them, and works for them. And to do that, you have to be around them.
My loves for quaint cafes and coffee shops began as an undergraduate, when I started using them as places to hang out, and work, and meet people, over a cup of coffee and some cake and cookie thrown in. And before I knew, I’d added cafe-frequenting to my list of hobbies, making cafe exploration a priority each time I hit a new city. And then a passion. And then, an obsession.
Why cafes? I hear you ask me. What about them?
Maybe because no two cafes are similar. Maybe because each of them have their own quirky, personality. And that as a creative, wandering soul, somewhat interested in the nuances of human behaviour, I find cafes and coffee shops great ‘watering holes’ and sources of creative inspirations.
‘Tis easy to feel the magic. Only if you visit your neigbourhood cafe, sit and observe carefully. The people, stories, and characters. All taking place simultaneously. The mushy first-date lovebirds. The two young Turks building the next billion dollar startup. The writer typing furiously on what could well be the next Pulitzer recipient. The freelancer meeting with his client. That one lucky soul stealing time to sit by the window and read a novel. The bunch of old friends meeting after ages, and reminiscing on times gone by. The gang of young mothers becoming girls again, while the little tots run around, consolidating their own little friendships. The age-is-just-a-number-couple holding hands and stealing glances at each other like teenagers.
And then the baristas – a category of people who clearly have a special place in my heart. The one who carefully crafts your beverage, never forgetting the beautifully designed coffee art at the top. The one whose sing-song energetic tone never fails to cheer you up, even on the gloomiest of days. And the one who promises you that he’ll make you his signature drink and change it if you don’t take much fancy to it – making your satisfaction a personal mission.
All of this, happening all at the same place, at the same time. Incredible, isn’t it?
And added to that, the individual personalities of each cafe. The individualistic ambience coffee shops tend to have. Quirky, vibrant, sometimes even quaint decor elements. The seating settings. And if somehow, all these elements in a coffee shop don’t collectively strike a chord in you, the place isn’t individualistic. Which means it’s probably not worth going to.
After much observation, and consideration, I’ve pretty much reached a conclusion that cafes aren’t just places that serve food and drink, they’re starters of movements, relationships and tales. The beauty lies in the perspective. I personally find cafes to be places of great creative stimulation. And inspiration. Profound, institutional spots, if I may say so. Magic in the mundane. Profundity in simplicity. Much ado about nothing, you might tell me. And that’s when I’ll tell you that J.K. Rowling wrote the entire Harry Potter series in a tiny British cafe. Yes, lots can happen over coffee! (And tea. And cake)