The Alchemist

Mohammad Ruhul Kader

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a real page turner on its own right, and an insistently mind bender. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and writer, is a treasure trove of wisdom and philosophy on living life at fullest. His idea of living our dreams and responding to our personal calling is so captivating that you can’t get it out of your head once it gets in. Coelho, who published his first book, Hell Archives, in 1982 and failed to make any significant impression, has become a widely read author by his Best Seller “The Alchemist”.
Recently I’ve reread “The Alchemist”-one of my all time favorites. Spun out to 161 ( translated by Margaret Jull Costa) pages, it’s a more gripping story than you think it is and more moving than it has a right to be. The central idea of the book is straight, sticky and utterly impactful.  Dreams, magic, mystery, symbols, sign and adventure follow the reader like echoes of magical world of wisdom with the song of the desert.
With frank storytelling, symbolic expressions, uncanny wisdom and philosophy Coelho urges us to follow our own path, fulfill our own destiny and respond to our own personal calling because this is the path that God chooses for us on this Earth and this is the way to find happiness and fulfillment.
As you’ll read through the book, it’ll give you optimism, and courage to follow your personal calling and pursue your own dream. In our day to day life, when everything seems utterly frustrating and disappointing “The Alchemist” is a masterpiece of hope and possibility and a tale of our own capacity to achieve what we want to achieve.
The book tells the story of a Shepherded boy “Santiago” who wants to travel and see the world and who has a dream and courage to follow his dream. We first come to know about it when he says to his father that he wants to travel the world. His father, a man who has sacrificed his own dream for living a safe and regular life, tries to convince his son not to do so. And there, at that very moment, we first come to know that all of us have not the courage to follow our dream, our destiny. Coelho says: “the boy could see in his father’s gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world- a desire that was still alive, despite his father’s having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink and food to eat, and the same place to sleep every nights of life”. And suddenly it seems that the story is about our own life.
The story proceeds on with Santiago and with his flock of Sheep and we come to know about his brilliant journey, his continuous discovery about life, his meetings with new people and his search for the meaning of his dream. And it teaches us life is all about chances and uncertainties and that’s what makes our life most interesting; as Santiago says to himself: “A Shepherded always takes his chances with wolves and with drought, and that’s what makes a shepherd’s life exciting”.  And we all become shepherds.
Then we meet with that gipsy woman who interprets dream and she tells us that it’s simple things in life that are the most extraordinary and that only wise men are able to understand them.
The whole story just has six to seven significant characters and most of them have very short life. But with Coelho’s poetic expression each character shed an unwavering light on our mind. From the Merchant’s girl whose days are all alike to the old man who claimed himself as a king of Salem we find them very real and close to our heart. And we find the echoes of old man’s wisdom continuous to chime in our mind when he says “when we want something the entire universe conspires in helping us to achieve it”.
And we learn that there is nothing to hold us back from pursuing our own destiny, nor any material things that all will be destroyed once. And what we need is just courage and decision to follow our own dream.
And then we see that the Shepherd boy “Santiago” travels through all Africa and ends up finding his treasure. On his way to finding his treasure he faces obstacles, known and unknown, he meets with the merchant who sells glasses and afraid of seeing his own dream come true and he meets with the Alchemist -who studies the secrets of the universe, and meets with his love Fatima- which remind us that love is not something that hold us back from achieving something that we want rather it’s a further impetus in following our own dream and inspiration for finding it.
The whole book is a condensed collection of inspiration, symbolic lessons and quotations. And my take away from the book:
We should listen to our heart and we should not give up until the last of the road
We all have our personal calling and that is the path God has chosen for us on this earth. Finding our own treasure is a hard way to be chosen but it is the best way to live our life.
Fear of failure is not something forbidden but we have to work through it and love should not stop us from achieving what we want to achieve rather love should inspire us to achieve our dream.
Making decision is difficult, choosing between two similar options is exhausting but we have to do so to proceed on.
Well, don’t think the book is something grand, epic noble, something Dickensian tale of lust and social complexity and wit, although it does contains all these but in its own way. On the contrary, the book is extremely simple and straightforward. It’s a story about a simple shepherded boy and about his dream and about his day to day progress. It does not take time to grasp the message but it does take time to disappear its awesomeness.  If you’ve not read the book yet and you are on look for something that will ignite fire in you then grab a copy today.

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