After delivering the lecture, Dr. Varghese journeyed to Koh Tao, an island in the middle of Gulf of Thailand to spend a few leisure days before returning to UK. Over next few days, Dr. Varghese finished reading the book, while enjoying island’s tropical weather. The story revolved around a young Spanish shepherd who dreamed about a hidden treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. Subsequently, he would embark on a journey to unearth this treasure. Along the way, the Spaniard would encounter various interesting characters including an alchemist, learning life’s valuable lessons from them, while also surviving various frightening situations in the desert. In a sense, the story felt more like a parable with a surprising ending. Dr. Varghese looked back on his own life’s journey. He was born in a newly-independent country attempting to rebuild itself after two hundred years of colonial occupation. Like the protagonist of the book, he also dreamed about locating a treasure that would change his life. And he would find his “Personal Legend” in higher education, eventually earning his PhD from a prestigious UK university.
On his last evening, Dr. Varghese ventured into an upscale restaurant called “The Wind”. After being seated, a teenager approached to serve him. The friendly fellow, speaking fluent English, introduced himself as Bibi. Dr. Varghese learned Bibi was an undocumented migrant from neighboring Myanmar. He belonged to the persecuted Islamic Rohingya minority of that country. Bibi had escaped the country leaving behind his entire family behind barbed wires. But he carried with him a dream of finding success through his own education and hard work. Currently, he’d taken that menial job to support himself temporarily with the dream of attending the university in Bangkok. Dr. Varghese asked Bibi whether he’d ever read a book titled “The Alchemist”. He nodded negatively. Next day before leaving the island, Dr. Varghese handed over his copy of “The Alchemist” to Bibi.
Recently, Dr. Varghese was attending an international conference in Berlin. In one of the sessions on research by current PhD students, he observed a well-dressed and confident Bibi presenting from his ongoing research from the University of Bangkok. After his presentation, Dr. Varghese approached him. Bibi recognized him immediately. With tears rolling down, he whispered “I’ve been chasing my “Personal Legend” that you made me in believing.”