Starbucks

StarbucksPicDear Starbucks,

You did it again! No, it is not the tea or coffee order that got switched, neither was it ruined. It is also not about the temperature of brew… it was extra hot, perfect! It is not about the store front or the decorum- just like the other twenty-one thousand (and many more) Starbucks globally fulfilling people’s passion for a coffee cup. In fact, I am writing about my admittance to the Hollywood hall of fame with little or no effort on my part, pairing me with none other than the legendary Sylvester Stallone.

“Rocky” does make heads turn, bringing smile to people’s faces. Occasionally, a rookie paparazzi’s camera flashed but no thanks – I would rather be with my birth name “Rakhi.”

I have been a frequent visitor, energizing my body drinking your coffee for the past 20 years now. The first few trips were interesting and notable. The server kept calling “Rocky” while I sat right in front waiting anxiously. We made an occasional eye contact yet I did not claim “Rocky’s cup.” I got up with a puzzled look on my face and asked I am R-a-k-h-i waiting for my coffee. They searched high and low but couldn’t find my brew. Apologetically, they brewed a fresh one, while Rocky’s cup stayed on.

One sunny morning, tired of waiting, the culturally sensitive educator in me took the onus of making things right. I mulled over the lesson plan – spelling and pronunciation of a five letter word… effortless and durable. With the exchange of few casual pleasantries, I started: “Rakhi” the name is of Indian origin, symbolic of bond of love and protection between brothers and sisters. Its history is said to date as far back to 300 B.C. the times of Alexander the Great. The barista looked at me, squirming at the notion of being in a classroom. With a few iterations retrying to get the position of tongue just right, Jenna, being the avid learner, got it right! To my pleasant surprise, this ecstatic feeling of achievement was short-lived as the brew arrived the store resonated with celebrity-style ovation for Rocky. Kudos, I congratulate your team for shining the light on me every single time.

While I enjoyed the fresh morning brew, my inner voice kept nagging me. I considered changing my name to something more palatable – like my initials R.S (depriving me of my identity altogether) or any other easy-to-pronounce European name that could melt me into the American pot and at the same time award me the anonymity that I am used to.

Amidst all these contemplations, I thought of Barack Obama and his Kenyan heritage via his name. I also thought of Uzoamaka Aduba, who begged her mother for a new name and she denied her child the privilege saying, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” I decided to stick with my historically significant, village approved (my uncle gave me that name), parent-loved name.

The bitter truth about you and your corporate brethren with such a ginormous global presence staying laser focused in pursuit of the perfect “cherry” is that you have successfully separated the bean from its culture, isolating the aroma from its soul, selling the rich brew to an impressive lineup of 60 million cup holders a week and soon to reach the 100 million mark. But please consider this – just like every bean has a story to tell, so does every human spirit and it starts with their name – an undistorted one, “cherry” picked at birth. Until that time I will reluctantly enjoy the celebrity status.