I read Paulo Coelho’s, “The Alchemist” back in year 2000. It was given to me by a friend, Salman Ateeque, who lives somewhere in Africa now. The book has many wise anecdotes told by the Alchemist to Santiago. I am writing one here from memory and it is followed by what I thought about it then. The story is not stated here verbatim as I tend to forget bits of it but the central theme and details are hopefully true.
Somewhere in the middle of the book the Alchemist tells Santiago a story of a person who used to live in the Roman Empire. The person had a dream in which, possibly an angel, told him that one of his two sons would grow up to be very famous. When the man woke up he thought that it would be the poet son who would become famous for his poetry and it could not be the other son as he was in the army. It turned out the the son who was in the army progressed to become a centurion. And on a military campaign when one of his soldiers got badly injured he was advised by his fellow men to travel to middle east to a man who cured lepers. The centurion did so and eventually met Jesus Christ (probably but I am not sure, it could some other religious figure). He begged Jesus for his soldier’s health and the words he used latter became a prayer. That was the reason for his fame.
At that time two things surprised me. The first was that as the father saw the dream he suspected the poet to be famous. It was strange for me to imagine that the father would think like that. For me it was natural to think that the one in army would become famous. After all army officials get to positions of prestige eventually and Roman Empire, for the large part, was a military oriented regime. It was strange to think that father would consider the poet to be lucky. But that probably owes to the fact that I am from Pakistan, where the profession of armed forces is considered much prestigious.
The other thing I inferred was that it is not necessary that whatever one thinks would come out to be true. The father thought about one son, whereas the other one became famous. This can be observed normally in rural areas of Pakistan when parents normally decide as to what the son is destined to do when he grows up even while the son is in the cradle. And depending upon the looks of the child he/she is either sent to a better school or a not so good one. And normally the instrument used for this judgement is the wise gaze of an elderly paternal figure.
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