Don't let the cups drive you... Enjoy the coffee instead

When I thought of starting my blog, one thing I promised to myself, "I will not post any forwards!!!". I lived with my promise for 11 posts. But something kept compelling me to break my promise. Here it is which touched me with its simplicity and the utter truth which shows mirror to the today's generation (read it to US).
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to hot coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups and were eyeing each other's cups.

Now if life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, but the quality of Life doesn't change. Some times, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

Don't let the cups drive you... Enjoy the coffee instead.
I don't know how many times I have read this, I don't even know how many times in life I am going to read this, more interestingly, how many such incidents will happen which would compel me to read this article. Great truth of life wrapped up in simple words and presented in easy-to-understand manner.

Our fathers had decent salary yet, they raised their kids, married off their daughters, fulfilled all their responsibilities with that meagre salary.

WE, started our careers with the salaries which our fathers retired at!!! Still, there are only few who are happy with what they have, what they are doing. Reason... the next cube guy just flew to US of A... a friend got a huge hike in his company... relative's daughter got promoted to a higher post.... A neighbour's son got a seat in IIM.... reasons can be many... as they say, "nice looking expensive cups"... Result, long working hours, weekend slogs, work from home... just to reach the goal a little early!!!

A collegue and a good friend of mine once said "I am not here to compete with the guy who over-works and slogs 24X7, what if I don't get the rating as that guy, my time is spent happily with my family, what if my hikes are lesser to his, I invest my time networking people. At the end of the day, I may not be considered as THE GUY of the company, but my time, each and every minute spent, speaks quality in themselves". A nice reprimand to once over working habbit.

More often, the journey traversed becomes more enjoyable than the ultimate destination. Quality of life is finally accounted by the number of minute moments "lived" with your loved ones, than the number of flats,cars or the medals won.

They are just the cups to hold the life, enjoy the coffee instead :o)


  1. and here I am slogging in da office at this hour for another "cup"...poor me....
    nah...actually am enjoing da coffee in da office surfing thru the net and such great articles..:)...have a flight in da would go directly frm here..till then , happy am doubly confident that am doing the right thing here...:)

  2. actually many want to enjoi the coffee actually...but the catch is that they may get way-ward in course of events and get into the mainstream and get engrossed in all the "cups" of the worlds...and not actually enjoi the "cups", which others may still be happy with...the key is to be self-assured for as long as possible...

  3. umm.. cups do matter.. especailly if you r getting more coffee :-D
    yes.. but taste of coffee is all that is important..
    Good article. Keep posting.

  4. Nice. I think it just came at the right time too! I think this a good line of thought for a manager to convince an employee that a great hike is not everything! ;-)

    Nonetheless, I totally agree with what your colleague/friend's thoughts, cos that's what I keep telling myself too...the only rating that matters is what my family gives me..

  5. @ UP,
    Thats exactly what I tried to present. so many times we get diverted to such an extent that we forget that we wanted to hav coffee, for the glitz and glory of the cups... True, if you realise and know whats important to you, then a much expensive pretty cup might do a little impact on you ad you can happily move on in your chosen path.

    Zindagi badi honi chaiye, lambii nahin ;o) Just kidding...

    :o) Its equally right time to say no late nights and no weekends too

    Thanks :o)

  6. As somebody mentioned, self assurance is of atmost importance so that we are not to influenced by the cups :) What I see is, most people lack that (me included). We see ourselves as indispensable, which most we are not !

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  8. A Wise Post coinciding my Dad's Retirement Day (which fell on June 30th)! Incidentally, my first pay cheque was equal to my Dad's Annual Salary for that year! On Saturday, almost 8 years from my first pay cheque day, I stand next to him along with my employed elder sister, my Dad was the most charming personality amongst the trio! I looked very TIRED, both mentally and physically! I felt i was a total Loser! My sister was atleast better than me!
    Well coming to what actually am trying to say, our parents i guess, were content with what they got and tried to have realistic goals(rather only goal) of seeing the kids getting into the best schools and getting good education! They enjoyed, in the process every minute of life!
    I remember my PU days when i use to go for a walk every night along with my dad, and I use to really miss the walk those days occassinally when he was away on some travel! Those were minute things of my life which made my life and I was very happy.
    But today, I am really not sure what actually drives me towards happiness, and I guess I have completely forgotten what actually makes me happy and if that is really indeed Happiness! Like for eg: getting momentary happiness on the posession of new Gadget, Lonely Drives, Occassional Pubbing, Lonely workout @ Gyms and feeling happy of burning calories, Every growing thirst for next car, next gadget, next hike, next dream, next gal actually puts me to shame when I am Conscious about that thirst!
    Aks's blog is a Eye-Opener - to stop, introspect and move forward! As some saying goes "half the problem is solved if one knows the problem". This blog solved half my problem. Focussing on the Coffee would lead to the complete solution [:)]. Thanks Aks!
    In extension to Aks Blog, here are my two cents worth of thoughts as below!
    A year and half back, the chairman of International Emigration Studies, (am not very sure about the name) a wing of United Nations published a report which said 1% of Indian Population (including elite NRI club) contributes to 99% of the Indian Economy, and the rest 99% contribute to 1% of Indian Economy. Lately the figures might have changed a little but pre-dominantly the equation remains on similar lines except for the actual numbers! We (most of fellow bloggers and our colleagues) definitely belong to an Elite Club of Intellectuals with a Very Good Life and make a very tiny percentage of our population. Currently we just run behind the Corporate Life and work for pea-nut salaries! If we think little beyond the obvious, i guess we would be able to enjoy the coffee ourselves and in addition we will be able to make several others afford a coffee!
    If this is getting very confusing, let me put it straight. The message is - "Try to Retire Early from being an Employee" - get promoted to an Employer (Entrepreneur) - Along with enjoying your Coffee, make others to afford and enjoy their cup of Coffee as well!

    Just to connect the current life to our parents life, when they were young, the opportunites were limited and it was not easy to be on your own those days! Today, the economy is booming, people have disposable incomes, but they will dispose only for a better product / service which they need! I guess Dabbawallahs is just one example about how simple a service could be! It is the mind which has to think and more innovative thoughts could come only out of our minds which would lead us to 'EARLY RETIREMENT' [:)] and in the process the equation mentioned above would gradually change and could fulfill Vision 2020 dream!

    My Sincere Apologies if you found this boring!

  9. Good one dear. Good thinking. Yes, WE started our careers with the salaries which our fathers retired at.Still, most of us are unhappy with what we have, what we are doing. Our fathers were happy because they were content with what they got. Most of us don't have the word contentment in our dictionary, so are looking for new cups and forgetting to enjoy the coffee.
    So better to realise it now and enjoy the hot coffee before it becomes cold.

    “Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase”
    -John Balguy

  10. Nice one Aks. Thought provoking. In our father's days, work was means of earning for living a life. I have never seen my father coming home later than 6. In my six years of career, I can count the number of days i have been at home before 6. Yeah, probably countless if it is 6 AM. (there was an instance when I started to home at 615 AM.)

    But now work has become "the life". We take credit that we are working hard for the family, but what good it is, if the family were to enjoy it sans you.

    Now a days, I stopped working on week ends. Since my home town is chennai, i travel on every weekend and enjoying it with family and friends.

  11. i mean work is helps us stay focussed in life in some way...and also gives us the necessary motivation...but there have to be limits to everything....also, as one great indian saint once said "performing our duties in life is the goal ... but it is very difficult to perform them without love and affection as they reduce the friction that arises when we would do our duty/work..thay act as "grease"...." so we need necessary time "off" from work to get our batteries recharged and gain the love and affection of our near dear ones...and enjoi the "coffee"...

  12. @Saumya,
    So true, realisation is only one half of the story where as practise is the other and much tougher one. I just wonder sometimes will we ever be able to get so very self assured that no cup bothers us!!!!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Raj. It was very touching. "I don't know what makes me happy", these exactly are the words I am hearing from quite a few of my friends (and my inner voice too). There was a time when I used to enjoy the scenic beauty every day, what do you call that, BLISSFULY HAPPY... Now even when I see a wonderful sunset, my mind makes me to have a look, Ok, then start thinking of some issue or the other. I just wonder where the admirer of nature in me vanished or I have stopped enjoying those minute small small things!!! I feel sorry for myself.

    Every day after lunch, we buy cloremint or some candy from a road side small vendor, having all his possession mounted on a cycle. Whether you buy for a rupee or ten, that man blissfully accepts it, smiles heartily at us. I have never seen sucha contented man so far. Though standing at the roadside with his cycle for the whole day, this old man doesn't show a line of displeasure. I have started admiring him and wondering what makes him happy....

    Exactly HK... There was a time when I had not gone out for months. My office - My home. 5 min walk. After a few months when I went to a nearby ATM, I was astonished, frightened and felt an instant void looking at the lights, vehicles and people. Felt where I am, where was I so far :o( I can still feel that... That struck a realisation in me to some extent, work is not everything...

    All is good till its in moderation, work, money, desires... the moment it goes beyond, it becomes a pain, a master and we are the slaves!!!

    Thanks a lot, having said all that still I feel bad about myself for not being able to put it into practise. To certain extent its the self, which scares you that you'll be left behind in the rat race and to certain extent the people and surroundings which judge YOU by your cups than your worth. Sad... :o(

  13. it is abt "what makes you really feel happy and forget everything .."...for me its cricket...watching or playing..may seem kiddish, but thats the plain truth..:)...everything else has some degree of unease abt it...wht abt you guys...

  14. this "john balguy" adage you mentioned here has one equivatent in sanskrit (?)...santosham param was good to see the same idea frm the west as well...
    @akshatha, obviously a balance is very important....and thats the most difficult part i strike a good balance....i mean there are people who can do one particular thing very well..but look very awkward at other things /facets of life....that becomes very ugly...and abt that cloremint guy, does he sell "happydent" as well..if yes, then he may be an ambassador of the same brand and may be required to display a "happydent" smile to the customers...this may be a reason of his apparent contentment....thats a bad attempt i know..:)

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  16. Well, comparing the lifestyle of our generation with that of our parents' is not exactly a right thing to do. Until very recent, economic viewpoint of our whole society was totally different. An average person would focus more on saving than spending. Actually there was a time when most of our "intellectuals" were deeply inspired and driven by socialism and Marxism(although what Marx actually proposed was slightly different). So being poor was actually seen as an idealism! Gandhian principles, for example. So naturally the whole idea of making money was seen as a sin. Ideologies have changed of course except for some non-rightist proponents like U.R.Ananthamurthy, probably the last one to cling so strongly on to socialism in Karnataka. Now is the time of capitalism; And everything revolves around money in capitalism. Naturally the tendency to make money and spend on luxurious things is driving our generation. Of course, everything under sun(and may be sun too) has a negative side. So we can't really set things into definitive boundaries of good and bad. They are just "different", that's all they are.
    And I think there is nothing wrong with spending whole lot of time on your passion. If work is your passion, so be it. Personally for me, my profession is not a passion. My heart is at some other things and I end up spending lot of time on them.
    Having said all these, I want to clarify that I'm not saying that money is the only way to salvation. It never was and never will be. Satisfaction at what you are doing, a happy family, a great network of friends do add great qualities to life. And I believe this is what you are exactly trying to say.
    Nagatihalli Chandrashekhar wrote somewhere - "bEreyavaru hoTTekichu paDadaMte badukiddoo enu upayOga?" Quality of life does matter, big time. I really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for them.

  17. "Pink se panga nahi lena ka....never" :)
    kool background yaar.......

  18. @Harsha,
    Comparing our life style with our parents is not a bad idea at all. That makes us pause and smell the roses if we are too lost in the run for goals.

    Earning money was never a sin, never will be. One who tells money is nothing must be a real hyporite else a saint. Everybody likes to see himself having the capability to buy whatever he wants to, do whatever he feels like. A financial stability would give you this kind of freedom. The point here is not that our parents thought it to be a sin to earn and save, but they chose to go in a steady pace in life, both smelling the roses and focusing on fulfilling their goals. The only difference would be that, they never wanted things to be "instant". They gave sufficient time for everything, be it their work life, personal life, for their passions etc. As a result, they were much contented soul when they reached the evening of their lives. They might have not amassed wealth, but they had a wealth of content and satisfaction which today's generation misses.

    Earn how much ever you want to, save how much ever you want to, spend how much ever want to. But money should not be the only focus of life. Its just the part of life, its not the life. Having different passions and hobbies might slow down your professional and finacial growth a bit, but as a human they tend to build a lot of character, personality and content in you.

    Thanks a lot for reading my blog :o) Nice to see you in my blog, the thought of college days made me nostalgic :o)

    Good that you have realised, I don't have to use my muscle power on you to make you realise :o)

  19. Money is never the driving force, at least for me. :-) As I said earlier, I confine my profession strictly for 8 hours/day(and sometimes less than that. :) ) My passion is at something else and I really enjoy doing that. I've read Girish Karnad saying in an interview that acting in films is just his profession which he do for money and theater is where his interests lie.

    I didn't mean to say that our parents viewed making money as a sin. What I wanted to convey is that the society as a whole was not introduced to concept of capitalism . So their mindset was totally different. Were they satisfied? That's very subjective. A study showed that people in Bangladesh have higher level of satisfaction than people in US! Does that mean people in Bangladesh have less worries at all? Well, not really. This tendency of being satisfied easily might be the reason Bangladesh is way way backwards compared to US. But yeah, it's also true that consumer oriented society puts people in higher confusion level. Buddha said "Aaseye dukhakke moola". More appropriate would be "Duraseye dukhakke moola".

    Discussion can't end over here. May be we can discuss more, over a cup of coffee sometimes. :-)

    Nostalgia is a sure good thing. We could never loved this life so well if we had no memories associated with it. :)

  20. Why all of a sudden my picture started appearing here? And I forgot to ask; How are you doing? :)

  21. "Inflation" and "Contentment" are the 2 things that come into picture here......

    The statistics that decide the health of the economy would be so different when compared to our parent's time and in today's context.....

    "WE, started our careers with the salaries which our fathers retired at!!!" no doubt...but at the same time, to buy anything today, be it any commodity / automobile / house etc;we need to spend almost similar % part of our salary today which our parents used to pay as their % part of salary during those days :o)

    "Inflation" is the villian here which is responsible for persistent'll be shocking if we compare the price of few articles around 20-30 yrs back and now......

    Though we can not really (as an individual) control the inflation, the only thing that is in our hands is "Contentment" and yes "Being contented with what we have and what we achieve is the mantra of a cool n happy life....." :o)

    -Vijay Saradhy

  22. That is really a nice thought shared by you.I read a short story couple of days back which talks on the similar lines.A father was on his death bed and talking to his kids.He told them "I have few moments left in my life and I am trying to recollect all the good things of my life .Unfortunately I have nothing much to remember because I have spent most of my time in OFFICE -:( So my only advice to you guys is to spent your time with people who matter most than what appears to be most important".
    There was a shocking piece of news a couple of days back.People in Western Europe who are in their mid thirties and early fourties have taken off from their fast paced life and are becoming freelancers or something or that sort.The reason being 'To Live Life'.
    The fact is crystal clear, either one accepts the grind of life to overpower him or to live life his own way.

  23. I happen to visit your blog when I was searching for 'Gufa' on google. I happen to read this article as well.

    Firstly I would like to appreciate,both your content and style of writing.

    This article has been amazing and the comments that you have added are apt and serve as an eye-opener to many in the present day corporate world!


  24. @Sandeep,
    That was a very nice story and thanks a lot :-)

    Thanks for visiting my blog :-) Hope you enjoyed the experience at Gufaa.