Thursday, January 5, 2012

Veronika Decides to Die

Yesterday I finished reading this book by Paulo Coelho which I'd bought at the Nizamuddin railway station, Delhi: Veronika Decides to Die. It is a story about a young, good looking, 24 year old girl with a steady job and plenty of boyfriends who attempts at killing herself by consuming an overdose of sleeping pills. Why did she want to kill herself at all?

Monotony. She felt that her life was too boring, too predictable and from then on it would only go downhill, with her becoming frail and weak and diseased and watching her loved ones die. She didn't see any point in living any further. She believed that every human being had a choice to take their own lives if they wanted to and 'God' shouldn't punish them for doing so, in fact, if anything, He is the one who should be apologetic for putting them on a place like the Earth in the first place.

Anyway, she survives somehow and wakes up in a mental hospital where she gets to know that her heart has been irreversibly damaged and she only had a week to live. While she waits for death to arrive, she suddenly realizes that she needn't care about what people think about what she says or does or how she behaves because she had nothing to lose. She needn't care about the walls she had constructed around her, trying to be correct, to be precise, to be proper. And so, for the first time in her life, she allows herself to be free. To do things she had never done, to experience beauty and love and hatred and perversion.

It is when she is so aware of death lingering around her that she finally understands what it is to live, to fall in love, to experience extreme emotions, to find joy in simple things. Isn't it ironical? Her decision to die teaches her how to live.

I read somewhere "The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost." It's only after we lose something that we realize what it meant to us. Veronika realized that she hated the way she had lived her life. She never let herself be a little mad, a little crazy; she always tried to be a cistern, containing all the water inside her; but never a fountain, overflowing with emotions and enthusiasm. She never took risks, she never liked adventure, she was never rude or spiteful, she never made moves on guys thinking they might dump her; she never lived life on the edge. There was no excitement, no meaning, no purpose in her life.

I guess this is what happens to most people somewhere through life. They lose the spark, they are too afraid to go out of their comfort zones, they don't live life on the edge, and they end up existing, instead of living. Reading the book has once again changed my perspective about life (earlier it had happened after I watched The Secret) I guess we should all live our lives like its going to end very soon. Like we only have a few days to experience everything we can and to do everything we wanted to do. Like there's very little time left. Like there's no tomorrow.

Be crazy. Be daring. Try things. Try things which are considered wrong. Make mistakes, make lots of them. Experience bitter resentment and extreme anger and maddening euphoria. Weep with happiness, jump with joy and laugh out loud. Live. Life is too short and there is a lot to be done. Like a wise man once said, "There is no time to act dead; for one day, we will be."


  1. This makes me want to read the book even more. I'm taking it from you tomorrow.

  2. Wonderful post! So very thoughtful.

    I'm sorry for dragging Steve into this as well, but it only reminds me of his way of life. In an interview he had said that he'd look into the mirror and ask himself, "How was my last month? Is this what I would be doing if I were to die today?" - and many times the answer would be a resounding no.
    Also, using your concept of the 'weighing scale' (;)), everything falls flat in the face of death.

    P.S. Nice quote, to summarise your post. The man must be really wise :)
    P.P.S. Here's to the crazy ones:

  3. Nice thoughts Chinkoo:

    I love these lines below from ZNMD which bring out the same philosophy:

    Dilon mein tum apni
    Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho
    Toh zinda ho tum
    Nazar mein khwabon ki
    Bijliyan leke chal rahe ho
    Toh zinda ho tum
    Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise
    Aazad rehno sikho
    Tum ek dariya ke jaise
    Lehron mein behna sikho
    Hal ek lamhe se tum milo
    Khole apni bhaayein
    Har ek pal ek naya samha
    Dekhen yeh nigahaein
    Jo apni aankhon mein
    Hairaniyan leke chal rahe ho
    Toh zinda ho tum
    Dilon mein tum apni
    Betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho
    Toh zinda ho tum

  4. Ergo, hope you enjoy the book! :)

    Chee, thank you! Yes you have told me about the Steve and mirror thing before :)
    Don't even get me started about the man. Everything falls flat in the face of HIM :P

    P.S. The video is amazing! His narration is perfect!

    Doo, thanks :) Love these lines. They're so positive and full of life!

  5. Charles Bukowski said this really awesome thing once that I try to always keep in mind. "Some people never let themselves go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead!" :)

  6. Haha, that is so true Karishma :)
    I also like this quote on which this book is based, "collective madness is sanity"! :P

  7. I know its been over a month...was in Singapore for 12 days, been a little busy at work since. Then drowned myself into a few battles for a week that are going on in my head, the usual frustrations that we all face often. So needed time to bring in some positivity.

    N right as I am back to my normal self, very interesting to read this. A very apt article for me. Good timing :D

    Have read the book a few years ago. It is very important to realize that you do not realize the importance of many things when you have them...but as soon as you lose them, that is when it strikes you. Just like in this case, Veronika realizes the gift of life just as she is about to lose it.

  8. Manu, thank you! I'd missed your comments!
    Glad to see another one!

    Hope you had a good trip to Singapore and have, um, won the battles against yourself :)
    If you think about it, we're all frustrated with at least one aspect of our life. It's important to feel fortunate for the things that we have! Glad you bumped into this post when you did.
    Cheers :)

    1. Oh yes, Singapore trip was very good...had a great time there...n was good work wise also (which was the purpose of the trip :D).

      Your words are certainly comforting, as it is practical n true. As for the battles brewing within me, just as you said, I too started to think about all the good things around me that I experience. No use brooding this much, as every person in his/her early (or even mid) 20s go thru the same usual issues like 'what am I doing with my life', 'how will I manage 10 years down the line if things don't change drastically', 'the monotonous life', 'career related worries' n the usual frustrations as you would be able to guess yourself. As you said, I started feeling better by focusing on all the good things I experience in my life.

    2. n of course, cheers to you too :)

  9. I have read several books of the same author The secret, Alchemist,Manual of the warrior of light, 11 Minutes....
    But sometimes I fail to understand him because his philosophy is too high for a normal person to understand i mean you need to think so that you understand what actually he means.

    Currently I am reading his book called 'Brida'.


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