Meanings & Meanderings

Ministhy Dileep | July 25,2010 05:50 pm IST

By any conventional wisdom, Paulo Coelho is a tough read. His writings carry the reader into a sort of trance, because there are layers of meanings to unravel in each of his written word.

One feels as if one is walking the fine line between the "visible" and the "invisible" as he often fondly writes in his latest best-seller - Brida.


The Alchemist was the first enchantment for me. It reached me at the right time, so to say. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The power-house of wisdom in such a short capsule of a book, leading us to search for the lost Santiagos of our own souls, inspiring us to reach for the 'power of the universe of dreams', affected me as strongly as any of his ardent fans. 


The message was mesmerizing and magical. The universe will assist one's dreams if the dream is pure, passionate, and intense. All you have to do is to ask. Years later, another best-seller, Rhonda Byrne's The Secret was to re-affirm that too! There are no coincidences; every act has a divine purpose. That is another of Coelho's sentences. That is also the fundamental approach of another wonderful best-seller called, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert on her search for meaning in Italy, India and Bali. 


Imagine my surprise when recently flipping through the channels, I found a Guru who was exhorting 'to make sure you ask the proper gifts from the universe, because a Sanjeevani Shakti is listening to every word you utter and every wish you make!' It must have been Paulo Coelho in the guise of an Indian Sadhu, I thought!!! Such is the universality of his message that it resonates in almost every living civilization. I also learnt that serendipity, another of Coelho's favourite tool of interpretation, is no stranger to me.


The Manual of the Warrior of Light was thought-provoking and more. It armed us with its meanings of love, enmity, destiny, dreams and strength. I mention enmity, because I particularly liked the way in which Paulo Coelho exhorts the warrior of light to enhance one's own energy with the negative energy emanating from one's enemies. He asks us to use the enemy's presence anywhere in the world to challenge the best out of one's own abilities!!! It was an Aha! moment for me - almost as if I have discovered the prayer-box that would change all negative energies coming towards to me to strengthen my own inner resources. 


When I reached for Eleven Minutes, it surprised and shocked with its absolutely diverse way of looking at the complexities of human desires and even perversions. The title and its meaning was startling, to say the least!


The Zahir, with its lilting poetry in prose, explored love and obsession in its hundreds of pages. It was Paulo himself speaking, one felt, for it was so autobiographical, yet he remained a mystery at the end of the tale. It taught independence, and passionate love at the same time and the human's never-ending search for true meanings. The wife who left and went off on her search became a strong symbol of a glorious human quest for meaning. The message is not too far from many Indian spiritual writings.


I have not read the other eight novels of his, so I cannot comment on them. But the sheer freshness of reciting the names gives one a high! By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept, Like the Flowing River, The Witch of Porto Bello... Wow!


And now comes Brida with her traditions of the Sun and Moon, with her unique discovery that there could be more than one soul-mate, and hence, the many pains and tribulations of the confused human heart. With her discovery that the light in another's eyes has actually a magical connotation in the language of destiny.that if one's soul-mates are well, one is well too, that we are responsible for encountering, at least once in every incarnation, the soul-mate who is sure to cross our path. That even if it is only for a matter of moments, those moments bring with them a Love so intense that it justifies the rest of our days.


That every moment of life is an act of faith... that things will ultimately begin to return to the place from which they came... that everyone possesses a Gift... that there is a Dark Night of Faith for every human... that by taking risks, by risking failure, disappointment, disillusion, but never ceasing in your search for Love, the soul triumphs.


At some point, when he describes the five senses and their drive for ecstasy, one wonders whether it is Osho speaking or Coelho. The writer treads many a dangerous path in Brida, using witch-craft (the name of one teacher is Wicca!), tarot cards, re-incarnations, interpretation of dreams, discussions on the soul, and its search for completion, about the ultimate destiny... meanings meander and meanderings merge into meanings, depending exclusively on the take of the reader.


Yet there is no doubt that one is in the presence of a master, a master weaver of words, so to say. A Teacher who encourages the distrusting to trust, and inspires the trusting to a different plane of thought and appraisal of life. If Orhan Pamuk mesmerizes with his genius and if Umberto Eco fascinates with his brilliance, Coelho enchants like a magician and casts a spell on his readers.


"I will always remember you, and you will remember me, just as we remember the evening, the rain on the windows, and all the things we'll always have because we cannot possess them .



Ministhy S. is PG (PM&IR) from XLRI-Jamshedpur, and currently, an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She has written five books - 'Unequal Equations', 'Learning with Tippy Tortoise: Tales for Kids', 'Happy Birthday: Poems for Kids' and a novel published by Dronequill Publishers, Bangalore....