Day before yesterday (10 April) was the death anniversary of Kahlil Gibran.
That evening while speaking to a friend my friend quoted couple of lines from Gibran and told me that she, in all these years, has not been able to read Gibran’s most celebrated work The Prophet completely because every time she picks up the book she gets lost, in the thoughts triggered by one line or one passage, for a long long time. I immediately said, “You shouldnt read The Prophet if you are not in the right state of mind.”
When asked why did I say what I said and what I meant by it, I had to recollect a story from nearly 15 years ago.
It was while reading APJ Abdul Kalam’s autobiography that I first came across Kahlil Gibran whose lines on ‘children’ is quoted in Wings of Fire. The lines caught my imagination and I desperately wanted to read The Prophet from which book the lines were quoted. I immediately left to the nearest book store and got an omnibus book of Kahlil Gibran.
Looking at the size of the book The Prophet I thought I would finish reading it in couple of days. But it took a whole month to finish that book small in size because the ripples every line every passage would create would drown me in an ocean of thoughts and meditation.
When I completed reading the book I knew the world would never appear the same again. I started recommending the book to every single person I knew. All of this happened during vacations.
When the college reopened I went to a teacher of mine with whom I used to discuss everything under the sun that interested me. I went to him and spoke at length about Gibran. My teacher asked me if he could borrow my copy of The Prophet. “Yes,” I said and the next day I gave him my copy of the book and told him that he should share his thoughts on the book when he completes reading it. “Yes,” he said.
After nearly two weeks when I crossed paths with my teacher in the corridor he said, “Samvartha come meet me.” I thought he must have read the book and would share his thoughts with me. I walked with him to the staff room and took my seat.
“What have you done Samvartha?” asked my teacher. I was puzzled. I asked, “What did I do?”
“Victor is hospitalized.”
I knew no Victor and hence was puzzled even the more.
“Who is Victor? I dont know any Victor.”
“Victor is my friend.”
“Okay. What happened? And what did I do?”
My teacher saw me getting perplexed and worried. He smiled. With the smile on his face he said, “I know you do not know him.”
I got even the more confused. “Then why did you ask me that? And what happened to your friend?”
Asking me not to feel worried or feel guilty my teacher said, “Actually he had come to my room the day you gave me Gibran’s book. He asked me if he could borrow it and I gave him the book,” and immediately changed the tone to apologize saying, “Sorry about giving it to him without your permission.” I dint know what was happening and before I could join these dots my teacher continued,
“Any way, he took the book and started reading it.” Giving a pause my teacher said, “He had a nervous breakdown.”
“What?” I screamed.
Calming me down my teacher said, “He has been going through a tough time and I guess this was not the right time for him to read that book.”
I dint know how to react. I felt guilty because somehow the nervous breakdown of this person not known to me was connected to me. I had a role to play.
My teacher could sense these thoughts in my head, I guess. He immediately said, “You are not responsible for it Samvartha. Its just wrong timing I guess. Any way, he is recovering now and that is a good thing.”
I was shocked because when I read the book, couple of months before this incident, I too was going through depression after losing a good friend under mysterious circumstances. But the book did not damage me further but in a way healed me. As I kept thinking about it I realized that what can heal can also harm. A realization that came somewhere from the depths of The Prophet itself: “Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potters oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
Victor recovered eventually and I happened to see him, just see him, once nearly six years after this and I was glad that he was doing fine.
In these fifteen years I haven’t stopped being a missionary for The Prophet. But every person who I recommend or gift this book, I make sure, I tell them the story of Victor and tell them, “Its a powerful book. Make sure you read it only when you are in the right state of mind.”