Short Stories, Singapore

Chapati Istimewa

nasi padang

Once upon a time there was a famous in-house coffee shop at a multinational company that served an exciting array of cuisines. The food was so good that hardly anyone in the company left the building for their meals.

One day, the owner of the coffee shop decided that he would only serve Malay food for a stipulated period. He claimed that it was part of efforts to highlight the beauty of each cuisine.

The workers lamented about the decision. The well-loved crispy fried chicken stall was going to disappear. But there was nothing they could do. Venturing out to another coffee shop was a waste of time. Besides, the nearest coffee shop did not have air conditioning. It would’ve been too uncomfortable a dining experience.

“Sigh, it’s okay,” they said. “Malay food is pretty awesome, too.”

The owner later reveals one of the new stalls: Chapati Istimewa.

Workers pointed out that chapati was an Indian food, not Malay. The owner shrugged off the protests, saying that many Malays love eating chapati, which in turn meant that chapati is considered part of Malay cuisine.

One Malay worker said: “This doesn’t make sense. So if I like eating Thai Curried Beef, does that mean this dish is also considered part of Malay cuisine?”

Another Malay worker chipped in, saying: “I like bubble tea, too. Will you be serving bubble tea?”

“As part of promotional efforts, I have given each of you extra credits in your stored value card. Thanks for all the support over the years! Be sure to check out Chapati Istimewa!” replied the owner.

“But you’re not answering the question,” said the first worker.

“Look, my management team agrees with me that chapati is a Malay food,” replied the owner.

“But…” said the second worker.

“That is all. Don’t you have to get back to work?”

One of the owner’s former tenants took to social media to criticize the decision. The post was set to private so only his friends could see it. But the owner somehow managed to learn of this online rant and decided to sue his former tenant for defamation.

The lawsuit took up much of the owner’s time. As a result, the coffee shop ended up with just one stall selling chapati. The workers were incensed. There would be no nasi padang, no mee rebus, no nasi lemak, no soup kambing, no sayur lodeh and all the promised Malay delights.

For the first time in years, workers departed the office to have their meals. They realised that while the nearest eatery was not as comfortable as the in-house coffee shop, it was three times bigger and had a much better food selection. Those who dared to venture further found more economical options that were just as good, if not better.

It was not long before workers rushed to redeem the credits in their stored value cards. The owner responded swiftly. He mandated that only those with $50 worth of credit in their cards were eligible for the cash-out. Many people cut up their cards in anger and never returned.

Despite the exodus of customers from the company and having just one stall, the coffee shop survived. The lone shop did after all sell excellent chapati. Many workers from neighboring office buildings came to try the chapati. But only a handful of them were regular customers.

Most people just didn’t fancy having bread for lunch every day.

The owner of the coffee shop ended up winning the lawsuit. He threw a party to celebrate the victory. He gave all customers extra credits. But he also raised the price of the chapati by 30 percent.

He explained that the move was merely a means to raise awareness of the effort it takes to craft a delectable, fluffy piece of chapati. Customers were left fuming. Most of them never returned.

The famous chapati chef from India disagreed with the owner’s actions and quit. The replacement chef came from Europe. His chapatis weren’t very good.

The coffee shop’s revenue soon started to dip and the owner knew he had to shake things up. But instead of introducing new stalls, the owner decided it was more innovative to sell more variations of chapati.

A month later, Chapati Istimewa unveiled a brand new menu. It raised many eyebrows.

Salted egg yolk chapati. Peanut butter and jelly chapati. Kale and avocado chapati. Foraged blueberries chapati.

The coffee shop closed down after six months.

Because no amount of fancy dressing could mask the fact that the chapati was simply horrible.







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