When breath becomes air – my opinion about the book

‘When breath becomes air’ is one of the most moving books that I have read. Not that I have read many books but I’m sure anyone who has read this book won’t have a different opinion about the book.

Paul Kalanithi, the author of this book, was a phenomenal writer. His writing was engaging and the book is one good journey through his life. I sat wondering that if all he had mentioned in the book is true which I hope is, Paul could have done so much more with his life in the field of neuroscience. He could have also made his mark in the field of literature. The man was already a brilliant surgeon when he was diagnosed with cancer. I would refrain from going any further about his disease.

Though I have never met him in person, my heart has a lot of respect for the man. In the book he had mentioned spending 100 plus hours a week at work showing his love for the profession. Doctors who show such level of dedication are a rare find. As a reader I could find a connect with him.

It is a small book, one that can be finished in a day or less yet a powerful one. With a cup of coffee, this book won’t disappoint anyone who enjoys reading about people and life.

When breath becomes air




Today again I woke up with the realization that this pain wouldn’t last for that long. Pain can last only if I sustain life, which fortunately or unfortunately I won’t for long. That means end of this excruciating pain, by virtue of which I sustain my every breath. Cancer in it’s acute stage is eating my available working body cells, trying to relieve them of their long over due. 

I lie on my couch, and my soaked eyes wanting to close and my body paralyzed by unparalleled misery. I am alone today, for my caretaker has left me off guard. My mother is out on some other work, rather I forced her to be away for once. I needed the solitude for myself. But then he had plans as well, better ones. 

Painfully paralyzed as I lie, I hear the phone ring. I don’t want to get it, but then you always have a curiosity viciously circling you. The phone stops ringing. I heave. A minute or two later, it rings again. With my burdened shoulders and tired legs I walk towards the phone, it still did it’s job of ringing loudly. I pick up and throw a tired greeting, as though not wanting to greet but then forced to do so. Long pause and nothing from the other side made me feel restless. Did I pull my unwell body all the way for nothing? Again I greeted with a pressing need to hear a response from the mysterious.

Then, at that very instant my miseries vanished. All it took was one second for that one word to change every situation I was in. All of a sudden that one voice restored faith. I am hearing that voice after 16 years of living like a wall-flower. Her voice painted my world in colors. Yes… it’s her after 16 years. My everything for many years. She took a lot of time to say a word today, may be she felt guilty for the condition I am in today. Illness is always more mental than physical, and she quite knows that I wouldn’t have broken down into pieces if she had be there by my side. But then that is life. You never get what you want…. only what you deserve.

After her salutation, she was enquiring about my whereabouts. I could clearly notice the shudder in my voice. Hearing her voice was reassuring but the least expected things in these late days of my life. I stammered my way across to convey my whereabouts and then that conversation ended. I forgot to ask her why she bothered calling me after so many years or why she bothered asking me my whereabouts. I couldn’t, rather. The emotional surge was overwhelming to handle. At that instant I could hardly feel any pain or tiredness.

An hour later, I lie on the couch thinking about her. Thinking about my life when she was also a part of me. Thinking how stupid I used to be, and how easily she would soak into herself all my anger and frustration filled words easily and smile back at me with the same amount of love that she always had. I couldn’t help think about it. She was perfect, not near perfect but perfect and me I was nothing less than a moron. 

All these thoughts came and went, and kept cycling me as I lie there. I can feel some pain in my body but then it was completely ignored. I felt a palm on my forehead. I didn’t want to even open my eyes for it felt good but the reflex action can’t quite be controlled. The door was open, and it was her. 16 years later, I get a glimpse of her for the first time. 

She was no longer in the 8th grade, her face looked a bit tired, a bit old. I wish we could teleport ourselves to that time again. But alas her smile was the same. The same warmth in her smile, but not the same love for me in her eyes like before. I can’t blame her, 16 years of living apart is a long period. But then it feels refreshing to see her again. She is standing there and running her fingers through my hair. I loved that and she knew it. It was a pleasant feeling. She would do it all the time when we were together. She sat beside me, and I slowly crawled to place my head into her lap. It was an involuntary action. Just lie there in her lap, while she runs her fingers through my hair.

Today had become the same like before. That was when I used to look forward to everyday of my life unlike now. She kept asking me on my current health status. I had to be brutally honest in saying that I wouldn’t last a month. Her eyes did fill with tears but she didn’t forget to smile. The smile was something…….. 

‘Wake up boy! Are you not going to school today? It’s already late.’ my mother yells out.

I blink my eyes in disbelief, and can’t help  saying ‘Kaaasssshhhh… Why isn’t real life such a fairy tale?’ 😛