Photo credit: David Mao


A coffee mug struck with curiosity conspires to find answers but instead stumbles upon a lesson. Read on to find how the coffee alters the mug and the mug alters the coffee.

“Thank you so much, Simita! This is such a lovely going-away gift!”, exclaimed an excited Ameya picking me out of the box.

That was first of the countless times to come that she held me — her palms wrapped around in an embrace.

I vividly remember the fragrance of freshly mowed grass, the glitter of green leaves fluttering and sound of spoken words as they bade goodbye to each other. At last, she smiled at Simita while stowing me into her backpack and walked towards the cab that took her to the airport.

Me? I am a mug — a coffee mug, to be precise. The only conscious ceramic I have known and seen. And hundreds of mugs I have known and seen — in the potter’s workshop where I was born, in the warehouses I have lived and at last, in the shop I was displayed.

My earliest memory? A hot place, a fiery hot place. Hotter than any coffee ever poured upon me. But it wasn’t unpleasantness that I felt — just a not-so-gentle tingling all over. More importantly, that was the first time I felt anything at all, as if suddenly jumping out of a deep slumber. You can say I was born that day. In fact that’s when, I named myself as Me. I don’t know why, it made sense.

My daily drill began soon after we reached the new city.

For the first time and at last, I discovered — my purpose.

In mornings get picked up from the shelf, get poured coffee upon, get sipped from, get left till evening, get washed down, get put back on the shelf.


One day — several days into the drill — I felt different. I sensed a change, an evolution to be precise. It started out as a harmless midday thought — one of many in a string. I was standing on the kitchen countertop waiting for the daily washdown. And then it struck me — a possibility. Of me being more than just a mug. Me, the only conscious ceramic — a non-conformity to the norm, an exception to be precise. How else would one explain that Ameya picks me up every morning? A conscious choice — among the 5 other mugs in the shelf. And unfailingly, everyday just me!

Along with this thought, came the relentless desire to see myself — a constant curiosity to be precise. To answer a question — why me everyday? Just like she stares at herself in the mirror in her bedroom, I wished to look at it too. To find out — how different, how special a gift must I have been to get chosen out of crowd every morning? To answer — what makes me special? The craving to know this, grew stronger each moment the thought was held in me.

Only if I could make her put me down somewhere in the bedroom — a short glance at the mirror would do. Ameya never does that for some reason — always sips her coffee in the kitchen table. Always the morning newspaper and coffee in the kitchen. Occasionally she would walk over to pick a book from the bedroom but she never ever puts me down in there.

This needs to change, I begin to wonder how.

The next day — I noticed another peculiarity. An aberration, to be precise. My now-yellowed inner walls had a round bulge, close to the bottom and underneath it — a cavity.

A cavity to store stale leftover milk and coffee over several days? Maybe.

Store enough to make her sick? Maybe.

Perhaps some days back I wouldn’t have had such a thought.

The coffee is changing me, I can feel it. I am not sure how, to be precise — but my thoughts are overpowering me.

The frustrations of a thinking being capable only of inaction? Maybe.

Capable only of inaction — until today, that is!

Because this morning I did it.

After days and days of deliberately hiding from the washdown . Particle-by-particle, bit-by-bit, speck-by-spec . With the leftovers of her own drinks in the cavity, I finally had enough to get Ameya sick.

Bed-ridden, she took me in her hands into her bedroom and I proudly perched on the bedside table.

Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I glanced at the mirror on the wall.

And a coffee mug looks back at me! Just a coffee mug — nothing special!

No special goodbye message inscribed by her friend Simita, no special markings to identify me as me, nothing other than just a coffee mug!

A coffee mug not unlike any other of the hundreds I have seen so far — in the potter’s workshop I was born, in the warehouses I have lived and at last, in the shop I was displayed.

It completely escapes me — what’s going on? Why would she pick me every day if I am no different?

And right now, I just got put back on the shelf after the usual evening washdown — confused to my bits.

I look around at the 5 other coffee mugs. My gaze fixed on one of the others. And for a second time, I see me.

I feel I’m still perched atop the bedside table and looking at the mirror. But I know I am on the shelf.

For once, I see beyond the vanity of Me — the only conscious ceramic!

Suddenly, it dawned upon me.

I’m the one to the left, the one to the right, the one in front and the one in the back.

I am the one staring and being stared at, at the same time!

I am special not because I am different, I am special because I am alike.

I am special because I have a purpose.

I am a coffee mug — one among a set of six and each one in the set of six, at the same time!

Note: This write-up is an exploration of a random thought:

I believe differences and uniqueness contribute to living beings conscious of their identity — essentially making them who they are, as an individual. Contrary to that yet similarly, could the collective similarity of inanimate things make them conscious and self-aware, as a group? To clarify further — could the pens or cups or mugs moulded by the same machines be parts of the same awareness?