The Reader’s Coffee Table

  • 12 Jan - 18 Jan, 2019
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

I knew it the moment I saw it. The perfect spot for my coffee house and book store. I had just returned from UK with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and high and big dreams. My parents immediately wanted me to find a cushy job and settle down so to speak. Potential proposals were lined up already way before I landed in Pakistan. But I kept that storm at bay by saying that it was too soon. I had hardly recovered from the homesickness that I constantly felt after being away for so long and I was just beginning to find my bearings once again.

On my insistence my parents cooled it down a bit. Phew. Missed that stray bullet quite well!

That was when I began my full time search for the right place to open up shop.

And I finally found it. Nestled on a side road in a very quiet and peaceful part of DHA, I knew this shop was the one. I contacted the real estate agent and started to strategize. I needed to calculate a SWOT analysis before I broke the news to my parents.

They were not happy.

“We didn’t let you go and study abroad so that you could come back home and open a dhaba. And what about all that money spent on you. We thought you would get a job and settle down and look after your family.”

“Look, I know you’re both upset but I’m not planning to open a dhaba. I have always wanted to open a coffee house spacious enough to house a small bookstore. I’ve seen so many quaint stores like these in England and I want to run a place like that.”

“But your degree…,” my Mom pleaded.

“Yes mom I know. But my degree will help me run this business. This is why I got the degree. It has helped me visualise this dream and it will help me keep my business afloat. I’ve even found a perfect spot. I’ve met with the real estate agent and I think I can get a good deal on it.”

“Well, if you’ve already decided why are you asking us? You do not need to fulfil any formalities here. Do you really think we’ll give you our consent on this?” My dad was unyielding.

I expected this. I stayed calm. I knew they would be upset. I just had to keep my ground.

“And how long will you dabble at this? You need to settle down and think of a future. We can’t go on supporting your dreams.”

Well, that’s one door shut I thought to myself.

“Mom I know how you feel. But I can’t get married or find a job till I try this. It’s always been my dream. I feel that I deserve to live my life the way I want to. But I don’t want to do anything till I have your blessings. I need your prayers to help me succeed.” I stopped on that emotional note hoping my parents would at least give me their consent even if they did not agree to my plans.

“And what if you fail? Your investment will be lost and so much effort will have gone down to nothing.”

“And what if I don’t? I have to do this. I can’t sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. Or run errands for an imposing boss who gives me peanuts and keeps all the major profits for himself; earned off my hard work and my toil. I had a job in England. Don’t you remember? I was making more money than anyone can imagine. I can’t do that anymore. I want to do this for my future.”

My parents remained quiet till I finally got up and got ready to leave. The day was good and I felt happy. I knew this would work.

I asked the real estate agent to draw up my contract. Then I asked a few friends to recommend a good contractor. I finally found one who understood my vision. Once the lease was signed I began designing the interior.

I wanted something simple but quaint. I went over all the details in great length. I asked for two things, quality and taste. I couldn’t compromise on either. The contractor got his people in and began his work, this beautiful but bare sight began to take shape. The store had an amazing front. And the street outside was shady and picturesque. I even had a basement with an upper floor.

I decided I would use the basement as a book store and the ground floor would be the coffee house.

Once the construction was underway I began to interview chefs and helpers and waiters.

So many people answered my advertisement on Facebook that I became confused. That’s when I asked my mom to intervene. After all she had been running the household for so many years. She was the one who would know who would work best for me.

I also craved her presence. Having her around made me feel that her blessings were with me.

She chose two chefs, Hania and Maria. She thought they were the best.

“Besides, women will never let you down and when one is not there the other will cover for her. They can be pseudo managers too when you’re not around and take care of all the silly waiters.”

“Mom all waiters are not silly. I’ll be hiring educated ones.”

“Waiters are all silly in our country. Maybe they sensible in UK, but not here.”

I laughed at my mom’s funny yet sound knowledge of waiters. Come to think of it they were silly in the UK too!

So my staff was picked out and my place started taking shape. I began to advertise for the grand opening all over the social media.

My coffee house had a simple but catchy name, ‘The Reader’s Coffee Table’. Intellectual and interesting.

My parents loved the name. Mom and dad both were very excited.

The day of the opening was announced. Maria and Hania prepared a delectable menu. We decided to have a temporary menu to check for what would sell more than others and then get some dishes finalised in a month or so.

Working with those two was fun. They were energetic and highly creative, they also had excellent credentials. Both had studied from Cordon Bleu, Dubai and had worked at various coffee houses as pastry chefs and baristas. They definitely knew their coffee.

I was their official taster and I had no reason to complain.

I dressed professionally for the official day. I planned to be there as early as the crack of dawn and my family would be joining us around lunch time. My mom told me she was bringing a few guests. “The more the merrier,” I said.

My team joined me a little after 5 a.m. and we all got to work from the word go. Breakfast time was busier than we expected and we were blissfully prepared.

By lunch time I felt as if this was all back of the hand for me. My team was doing a great job. I was so happy and relaxed.

My parents finally came and my entire team gave them a reception at the gate. Mom brought her friends with her. We settled them down at our main table and I joined them.

That’s when my mom introduced me formally to all

her guests.

“I’d like you all to meet my daughter Natasha. This is her vision and her dream. I hope Allah blesses her for all her hard work.”

I felt humbled and shy all of a sudden and tears welled up in my eyes. Indeed I wished my dream would be a huge success but just having my mom appreciate me meant the world. •