Sitting behind the counter of the Mud Box is a small, soft-spoken man named Kuman Singh. Patiently tapping on his iPhone until customers approach, he greets them with a warm smile. If you ask him what he recommends, he’ll tell you to order his favorite drink, a caramel macchiato. As he slides off his stool, he whips out a clear plastic cup and turns on the espresso machine in one fluid motion. With a squeeze bottle of caramel, he draws wavy lines circling the inside of the cup and places it under the espresso machine as the dark liquid slowly trickles in. In less than a minute, the drink is ready to go. With a smile, he deftly punches numbers into the cash register and tells you to have a nice night.
Singh grew up in Delhi, India, with his brother and sister. He came from a middle-class background that emphasized a dedicated work ethic. There’s a hint of nostalgia in his voice when he discusses his life back home.
“In India, if you have some problems everyone’s going to have time for you,” he said. “If they don’t have time they’re going to make it.”
Originally starting his career in the hotel industry, Singh came to the United States to stake out a life of his own. He landed a job as a chef at an Indian restaurant in Texas. But after his best friend in New Jersey referred him to the owner of the Mud Box, Singh decided to apply for a job in the District. Singh called repeatedly, demonstrating his dedication to the hiring manager, and he was eventually hired.
Singh expressed satisfaction with the strides he has made in his own personal development.
“I feel better over here because I feel like I have increased a lot of things in myself, like communication skills, and a lot of things,” said Singh, who has been serving AU students midnight caffeine fixes for the last three years.
Singh emphasized his fervent work ethic. In his mind, there is no question whether or not working until two in the morning every weeknight is too much.
“I have to close at two o’clock, so I have to close at two o’clock. There’s no cost or anything – I just have to close it,” Singh said. “It’s not bothering me that I have to close at two o’clock.”
Some mornings, Singh works as assistant manager at Spice Express, an Indian bistro near Farragut North.
“I’ve been working there for more than six months,” Singh said. “It’s a good place. There’s not any supervisor except me, so I think that’s the best part. I know how to cook, so when people aren’t there, I cook.”
In his free time, Singh enjoys hip-hop freestyle dancing. He has been dancing since he was a teenager, but due to his workload, it has been hard to find time to practice.
“I dance sometimes at home because I’m a busy person,” Singh said.
Singh’s aspirations beyond his career at the Mud Box have yet to be realized. One day he hopes to start his own coffee shop, where he can work as much as he pleases.
“I feel like I can manage [a coffee shop]. I feel like it. There’s a little bit of change over here, but I feel good about it. It’s better over here.”