The Cup And The Flask

blue cup images (2)five years ago..

My eyes were swollen from all the crying and I sniffed as I tried to push aside all that had just happened into the dark corners of my memory so I could have space for my beloved uncle’s advice.

I had just failed a course. A failure which had inhibited me from going further with the Civil Engineering program, and I was advised by the school to take another course more suitable to my first year cgpa. At the time in Futmin(my university then), your first year cgpa served as a qualifier that determined if you could continue with a particular course or not. Apparently, I fell short of the required cgpa to continue the course. All that was running through my mind was that I was a failure. Why did it have to be only me? All my friends had made it and were eligible to continue the course. I felt so betrayed. I hated everyone all of a sudden. I hated myself.

I watched as my uncle paused mid-sentence, and regarded me carefully. I could tell he had figured out I was not listening to what he was trying to tell me. We were seated cross-legged in his temporary room –  where he always stays whenever he comes to visit – on the floor. The room smelt of incense, musk and burnt candles.

I watched, bemused, as he suddenly brought out a blue cup and a stainless flask and placed them side by side. Between us. The first thing that came to my mind was that he wanted to offer me tea.

“You see the problem is”, he started, “too many people look too far for what will make them great, when what will do so is right there in front of them.” As if to illustrate what he had just told me, he touched the flask saying, “Too many people think it is only the big things that will make them great..”, then he touched the cup, “..when the little things can make them even greater..”.

And then the message he had been trying to convey to me the whole time he had been talking finally sunk in . The stainless flask looked expensive, heavy sophisticated – the cup was plastic, and cheap. But then the stainless flask could only be used by those who could afford it while the plastic cup could be afforded by all.

I knew this wasn’t just about which product had more customers than the other . Rather, It was about how the cup breached class differences- the rich,middle class, and the poor. They were all equal with regards to their access to the cup.

It all made sense..but how did it apply to my failure?

He told me other things. A lot of things that were deep and meaningful and calmed my brooding. But what stuck was the lesson with the cup and the flask..


I have successfully graduated from the university; another university. And up till now, I haven’t quite understood the correlation between what happened to me then, and the lesson my uncle taught me.

Hopefully, one day I will understand.


Update- September 16th, 2014

I get it now! He was trying to tell me too often people aim to do big things thinking they will make them great when it’s actually the little things that will propel them to greatness. Back then, I was supposed to apply for architecture but in my thinking, Civil eng was grander and I would earn more respect and recognition for being a lady civil engineer(smh), I went for it..and…. humpty dumpty had a great fall…

I think that is the mistake too many of us make. We run after titles and the big names and end up taking our happiness and well being for granted.

So glad I learned my lesson, even if it was done the hard way.

Photo obtained from:


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