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The book is about Santiago, a shepherd boy who dreams of a treasure and embarks on a journey from Spain to Egyptian Pyramids in search of finding it. Slowly this magical fable combines spirituality and mysticism in a beautiful concoction to pave the way for the Shepherd boy to realize his destiny. The boy's journey is marked by joys, sorrows, travails, his learnings and yearnings. His anxiety, worry, love and feelings find a beautiful expression and how he learns to be aware of his inner voice and what he really want to do "When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream", that's the message the book echoes.
It's a book that advises never to sacrifice the desire to explore beyond the known for fear of the unknown. Following the dreams and inner voice and trusting our intuition and inherent desire and using that to realize our potential- that's what The Alchemist is all about.
Choice of the book
I chose this book because it has inspired me over the years to pursue my dreams and explore new things. This book has touched my heart with the immensely simple language but yet a very strong message. It made me realise the importance of listening to my heart and paying keen attention to small things in life which might be omens guiding me to my destination. The book made me realise the importance of conviction when we take up a task and shows that there is something bigger than all of us in which we should have faith and belief. If I compare this story to my life I can deeply relate to it as I have always followed my heart to fulfil my dreams and on my way I have been helped by my friends and foes, my family and most importantly my teachers at various Institutions I have been to. It's not the case that all of them have pampered me but I believe what they have done was probably the necessity of the time which has helped me transform into somewhat better human being. The learning from this book is that one's treasure is journey relates to the concept of Karma in the Hindu mythology where actions of the soul become a means to itself and leads to liberation or moksha through enlightenment.
Summary of the plot
A young shepherd boy named Santiago has a recurring dream about a child leading him to the Pyramids of Egypt. After a Gypsy woman tells him he must go, he meets an old king who also teaches him about omens and following them on a path to his dream. He buys a ticket to Tangier, but is robbed of all his money when he gets there. He is forced to work for a crystal merchant for a year to earn enough money to go home, but over the course of the year, and by realizing the merchant's regret that he didn't follow his own dream, Santiago decides to continue on. He joins a caravan to the Al-Fayoum oasis as it's on the way to the pyramids. With the caravan, he meets the Englishman, and on the oasis, he meets Fatima and the alchemist, and they all teach him valuable lessons about following his dream. Eventually, after many trials and tests, he sees the glory of God and finds the pyramids. Then, he realizes that his treasure has been back in his homeland all along. He finds it and determines to return to Fatima and the love that awaits him.
If anyone ever asked me what my philosophy of life is. I would say "Whatever you need in life is present within you; still you have to travel the journey of life to realize that". I could realize this philosophy on reading the book Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have read this book many times over and every time it appears different to me. Though the final teaching is always the same the path it takes varies from time to time.
The very first time I had read it was as a in school, say as a 15 years old. I happened to glance through it in the school library. The sole reason i picked up that book was that, it was the thinnest book available on the desk, with a dead line to finish the book you are reading in one week, that too with only an hour long reading period that too just four days a week, I couldn't think of anything else.
And i started reading, it said about a shepherd, having a huge flock. He used to talk to his sheep and understand what they speak; he took care of his sheep, fed them and covered them. Then he started getting strange dreams, dreams of deserts, treasures, wars and pyramids. He was lured by evil spirit, and sold his sheep to get money to go in search of some hidden treasure. He went through all the hardships in life, just to realize that what he was looking for was in his sheep shed itself.
The moral of the story at this point was that the boy didn't value the treasures he owned, so life put him into hardships to realize the value of the things he owned. How I could relate to it was that as a teenager I wanted to do just about everything in life. I wanted to join the Air force, I wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to be a soccer player as well, but deep down I always had a love towards building things making that small dc motor run and move things and create something new.
The next time i read it was as a young teenager, filled with sense of pride being at one of the best engineering college in India, IIT Kanpur. And I read that it was the story of a young shepherd, who was well read and could speak on many topics, a typical heroic material. He had the courage to sacrifice what he owned, in order to pursue his dream. In the hunt he lost everything he owned, but he gained the most precious thing in life. He found love. He was mistaking the attraction for the merchant's daughter for love, until he meets Fatima - the desert girl. She taught him the most importance lesson of love that is sacrifice. She gave him the freedom in love, which in today's world we fail to give our partners. She told him, "if i am the girl of your dreams you will come back to me, and if you are the man of my dreams no one will seek me before that". He goes in search of his treasure, which he ultimately finds in his sheep shed itself. God made him go through this long lane for finding his treasure. God had his reasons behind it. Firstly he wanted to make the boy strong enough to face the hardships of life; he wanted to make him worthy of the huge treasure he owned. Secondly he wanted him to realize what true love is. And this part I am able to relate to all the effort and time it required me to realize that I had found my soul mate in one of my closest friends and now my fiancée.
Then again I read the book a few months before joining IIM Bangalore. I was surprised to know that i had overlooked so many things present in it. The book was much deeper than I had interpreted so far. It spoke about the essence of life. Santiago was most comfortable with the sheep; he could interact with them. Many times in our life we define our comfort zone and we are in constant fear of losing it. This is the key reason why people fear to take risk and move further. The writer presents a shepherd, who was too well read and talented for a shepherd. He was given a dream which he aspired to pursue. He decided to move away from him comfort zone, sold his sheep and went in search of the treasure. He gained varied experiences in life, which he could never have gained, had he not moved out. He met a so called him, who gives him two stones, which he considered very precious. It was the presence of these stones that he could move forward in the direction of his dreams. Much later he realizes that the urim and thunnim which were his only treasures were nothing but pebbles found everywhere. It teaches us that we can derive strength from any small, insignificant thing; it's the way we look at it that is important. He meets the crystal merchant who is alive, because he has an unfulfilled dream left. But he doesn't want to fulfill it because he will lose his purpose of living. Most importantly he meets the alchemist, who gives him the ultimate lessons of life. The reason he gave to the boy for why not many people are alchemist, i.e. why many people can't convert lead to gold, explains the essence of life. People wanted to learn alchemy not because they wanted to learn the science, but because they wanted to accumulate gold. This is where we all go wrong in life. We don't want to learn to live; we want to move ahead in life as fast as we can. By the time we learn to live, there won't be much life left to live. The hardships and troubles are a part of life. We have to go through them in order to realize what we have in us. This is one of the most applicable things to our current education system especially in our professional courses where the stress is not to appreciate the learning in a course but to memorize each word and problems without understanding them, in order to get good grades. I fail to understand how would such a learning help a student outside the campus when one is devoid of the insight that knowledge is supposed to bring to your life.
"The ultimate philosophy of life" What can be a better way to understand life?
I may again read the book; say some 10-20 years down the line. I am sure there are many things still left which I have over looked.
Thus, for me Alchemist provides a constant reminder to never give up on my dreams and put in every bit of effort to fulfill them. At the same time in the pursuit of these dreams we should not close our eyes and fail to notice things that might be a great importance to us. Probably at an elite business school like IIM Bangalore, its all about the big pay packages and best jobs, but I have realized that there is more to this place than simply following the dream of getting rich. I felt that even though the duration of the course is short still you come across people from all walks of life, having different mindset and different aspiration; some play a fair game while some don't. The learning being to identify and understand the motives behind such behavior and as we meet more and more people probably we will be intelligent enough to differentiate between the true friends and the fake ones. Even our teachers suggest that follow your heart and do what you would love to do in job as their experiences have made them realize that unless you love what you do, you won't be happy though you might earn a lot of money but the peace will elude you. Courses like STIA provides a mirror to do a self-check on our dreams and aspiration at an important juncture of our lives when we are about to graduate from the hallowed halls of IIM Bangalore; our forte and our weaknesses and gives a connection to all the wisdom our forefathers have left in the forms of texts. To be able to include them in our life even to the slightest extent will enrich our lives.