I have a quaint relationship with the books of Paulo Coelho. I will always pick up his novels on the day they hit the stands. And yet, I have never ever read his book when I picked it up. I’d always pick up the book and place it in my shelf. I’d even take it out every time I finished a book and it was time for me to start a new one. Sometimes, I’d get through a few pages and then leave the book unfinished for no reason at all. And then, when I least expect myself to read it, I’ll have finished the book in one read.
These books act as my personal guide. I don’t ever completely read Coelho when I plan to. It’s always unplanned and always at just the right time. I read The Alchemist at a phase in my life when I didn’t have much to believe in. I had always believed that life lets you know what to do and it ached harder that I had lost touch with that system of communication. I was dissatisfied and directionless. By the end of the book, life was beginning to make sense. I didn’t have an epiphany or even a flash of insight. What I did have, while reading that book, was a massive headache and a compulsive need to weep. I won’t even pretend that all of it made sense. Yes, the story is lucid but it is in no way simple. It took me a long time to digest it and I still understood it only in parts. For that time, however, parts were sufficient.
I’d been so clueless as to what I was going to do, that my brain had shut down. I’d been trying to listen to my heart so concentratedly for so long that because it wasn’t using words, I wasn’t grasping a whit of what it said. Somewhere along the book, I stopped trying to listen or to figure anything out. And that is when it all made sense.
5 years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead sitting at a coffee shop and watching people. I would think of it as rude and creepy and I was obsessed with allowing people their privacy in public spaces. And while I was reading the book, I started watching people. I’d sit somewhere and just look- never really trying to understand what I was seeing. I’d come home and sit down to write and that was when I’d hear the Universe talking and that tiny voice in my heart would start whispering. That is when my belief in signs was reaffirmed. All the bedtime stories, where mum said I had a guardian angel looking over me, were beginning to sound true.
I honestly don’t know if Coelho is just *such* a brilliant writer that his fiction, if it were fiction, could alter my perception so much. Or even if his writing isn’t all fiction and if what he speaks of is something he experiences. Both the scenarios work for me. I have always believed that life talks to us. I have also experienced a few of the encounters he mentions. I just didn’t know what to make of them. And what I thought the experiences meant didn’t earn me a good night’s sleep. I felt like I must be delusional coz I certainly wasn’t on crack. It felt comforting to know that someone had experienced somethings similar. Or, at the very least, someone could imagine such experiences. I guess I could always argue that I was just seeing things the way I wanted to see them, but I’d be lying. I don’t believe that life has any whims or even that it indulges in coincidences. It’s too refined a system for that kind of error. And so, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t mind having an author reaffirm my faith in symbolism or showing me more techniques of thinking of the Universe as an abstract entity with a lot of loopholes. I don’t even have an issue if it’s a whole lot of goop and I’m just letting it overwhelm me. What I do know is that books don’t just transport me to the lives of the characters. Sometimes, a book will alter my life in the way a teacher introduces a child to a new subject. It won’t always start as fun or even become enjoyable, but it’ll become a journey worth having.
Why am I saying all this?
Because today, I had a sucky sucky day. I didn’t know why I was dissatisfied. I was in the middle of a good book and I started reading another of Coelho’s works for absolutely no reason. Aleph had an uncanny resemblance to the frustrations I was feeling. I had 9 other works of Coelho on my shelf and I picked this one up unthinkingly. That’s how I seek my answers.
That is how I’m finally writing an entire text after months of incomplete writing.