This coffee smells funny

On April 27, a television actress, Malini Kapoor, it was reported, bought a cup of tea from a café chain. As she got in her car she dropped or, let’s say, the boiling hot tea fell on her thigh and scalded her. One reason for this was that the cap on the cup fit too loosely. Anyone who’s bought a takeaway cup from the big café chains is well-acquainted with these fly-away lids.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

She went to a hospital in Andheri, but was unhappy with its services because “the wound did not heal even after four days.” So she changed hospitals, but still, the wound did not instantly heal. So she went back to the first one. So it went, and it took 10 days for the wound to heal, which sounds kind of normal to me.

But Ms Kapoor is very angry about it. So angry that she wants to “start a movement.” Ms Kapoor felt the café’s loose cap was to blame for the fact that she was injured and so, had to miss work for 10 days, which in a freelancer’s life is admittedly, a bummer.

Surprisingly enough, the café admitted their culpability in the situation and agreed to compensate her for her medical expenses, which, as many people in Bhopal know, almost never happens vis-à-vis corporates in this country.

That did not satisfy Ms Kapoor. She declared then that she has decided to start a movement against how café staff treat their customers callously.

Are café staff callous? I personally find them heartbreakingly servile, trained to make customers feel they are kings and queens, while they are fleeced by the company that also underpays this staff.

It’s not the café staff who are callous, it’s chance. But why does Ms Kapoor feel her personal bad luck is so important that it merits a movement? When a wound takes its time to heal, why is it so hard for her to accept nature’s course? Why does it have to be the hospital whose services were not ok? They administer medicine, not magic.

Ms Kapoor’s mixture of anxiety and entitlement are not singular. They reflect a culture of instantaneousness that we have all become victims of. We have all been sold a dream of perfection through consumption — dream houses, dream friendships in dream cafes, a conveyor belt smoothness that can be our lives with the right cellphone. And if a cellphone can have a new idea to start a movement, then, all rights being equal, why shouldn’t any other person in the chain of consumption? We have the right to expect it to work smoothly, if we believe all we’re told.

But the only thing on the conveyor belt is us. The consumer is not king, but serf, compelled to buy high-priced low-life products and if unhappy, seek audience with faceless powers that be via their agents in Kafakaesque call centres. We are the products too. Since the system of work we currently inhabit is modelled on the idea of a smooth, relentless machine, it takes no account of the natural rhythms of life. If we want to survive in it, we are expected to be perfect cogs, as easily mended as a machine and as always available as one. Accidents and nature are not explanations anymore, just proof that you are disposable to the system.

No wonder then, that dropping off that conveyor belt becomes an apocalyptic matter, experienced at Arnab-levels of intensity and we want to quickly point a finger at any other cog in the big wheel, rather than be crushed by its onward roll.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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