In Pursuit of a Dream

If I am on the road, happen to be discussing with someone the merits of a book I have just read and liked, I often lose sight of obstructions and bump into people. One of the books that made me forget which side of the street I was on is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

I read The Alchemist long after it was first published in 1988. I heard about it making waves, found it in every bookshop I visited, but somehow looking at the cover page and the blurbs, found nothing that appealed to me. I often wondered what lay within this slim volume that had the world at its feet.

Then, one day, I borrowed a copy from Eloor Library at Gariahat. Since I had to return it within a couple of weeks, I read the book in short bursts while commuting. As I did so, I found that nothing could break my concentration.

In the novel, shepherd Santiago is repeatedly visited by a dream in which he is directed to visit Egyptian Pyramids to seek hidden treasure there. He takes up the journey which turns out to be perilous. Along the way he is cheated, taken for a ride and comes close to losing his life. But he does not throw in the towel. Along the way he meets many strangers who open his eyes and help him decode the secrets of the universe.

Santiago, however, does not find the riches in Egypt. He finds them in his own backyard under the sycamore tree in the abandoned church where he had commenced his journey.

Says Paulo Coelho, “There is one great truth on this planet: Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it is because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It is your mission on earth.”

It could be interpreted that the real riches are not present in the outside world but actually inside one’s own self.

When I read the book, I was passing through a lean phase. But as I turned the last page, there was a distinct transformational shift in my consciousness. I realised that it was all about being passionate about one’s calling. If one is bent on making a mark in life, no evil power in the world, however mighty, can stand in the way, and that there are unseen angelic forces that always accompany a man with the right intentions and guide him to his goal.

I located Mr. Coelho’s e-mail address and wrote to him of my ardent admiration for the book. I guess the intensity of my passion shown through, for he got back immediately: “My wish is for you and your loved ones to have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. As a way to thank you I have enclosed a copy of the Christmas Story that appeared in worldwide journals and columns that I have written. Best wishes to you and your family.”

I did not stop there. I composed a paean for him, a poem based on the spiritual awakenings I had after reading The Alchemist and some of his other books like The Pilgrimage. The poem was published in the Poetry Society of India Journal. I sent Mr. Coelho a copy. He responded again to my communication: “Thank you for your kind email and the lovely poem. Always follow your dreams and fight for them with faith.”

First published in The Statesman

1 thought on “In Pursuit of a Dream”

  1. Prataya Goswami

    I am humbled by your kind words and absolutely overwhelmed by the responses to this article. Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful article about my very favorite author. So fascinating! ❤️👍

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