Friday, March 11, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by the late Dr. Paul Kalanithi is one of the most moving books I have read in my life or more precisely, listened to, since I consumed it in audiobook form, thanks to Scribd*.

It documents the journey of the remarkable doctor from cancer diagnosis to his eventual demise, almost entirely in his own words. The extremely well read and well adjusted author quotes frequently from philosophy, religion and poetry among others, getting close to the reader's heart in more ways than one. And he was a runner :(

It is quite impossible to capture the welter of emotions that I went thru as a reader, while getting through the book. One is struck by the seeming injustice of such a fine, hardworking neurosurgeon cut down so early. One is moved to tears by his acknowledgement of his own ambition and vanity and his courage to admit it. The author's sharp sense of humour is no less stirring. But above all, the author just melts you down by taking you thru his vulnerability, ... "But now I don’t know what I’ll be doing five years down the line. I may be dead. I may not be. I may be healthy. I may be writing. I don’t know. And so it’s not all that useful to spend time thinking about the future—that is, beyond lunch”... As Abraham Varghese says in a rather splendid foreword, "...“see what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words...It is a gift...”

The book made me reassess and appreciate the value of my life. One is left feeling rather blank by this statistical injustice of a bright, extremely loveable doctor being taken away from this life in his prime. I am overwhelmed while putting the book down - There's such delight while being in the company of someone so smart and the simultaneous sadness of the loss of someone who brought so much joy to so many people and will continue to do the same for perhaps everyone who reads his story. And this is compounded by the fact that cancer has struck the lives of several people I know in recent times.

All I can say at this point is that you must read it if you can.

* Scribd has since made the audiobook unavailable in India

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