Hermann Hesse is my Dad and Mom’s favorite writer, I got a few of his books for them last year and now I know why he is their favorite :). Going by the name, I thought it was going to be some kind of story of Gautam Buddha or may be related to the period before he became Buddha. We too have our own little connection with Buddha too as I said that my parents are not only Buddha’s followers, they named my elder brother after Buddha’s only Son Rahul. Way back in late 90’s when I was working in Delhi, I met a prospective client for consulting business, I have no idea why but after the meeting and handing over the business to us successfully she said “Can I call you Siddhartha”? and I thought “Why”? but said “Of-course, why not, I love that name” :). She called me Siddhartha, for I believe as long as we did business with them. It was hilarious to get a call on the office line from a client asking for a name of a person who didn’t exist in our office but gradually I was the one who was forced to attend her calls and meetings too :). Although neither me nor anyone in our company ever asked why she called me Siddhartha. Going back to the Siddhartha that I read about wasn’t a person who followed Gautam Buddha blindly, he rather questions his teachings and made his own path as per his own belief and understanding. I loved the way his path actually crosses with the original Buddha and the way he proceeds from there. Author very clearly at the very start makes it very clear that it isn’t about Buddha but a different Siddhartha and his own life story.
Another thing that I loved about this gem of a little book of wisdom (hardly 200 pages) is that it is one of those few books that I find myself totally incapable of reviewing or rating. Now that is one reason why I would like to read it again as my Dad too told me that one reading will surely not help understand the deep meaning it offers to the reader. And as far as I know of whatever I have read of Hermann Hesse or heard about him, he isn’t an easy man to understand. It is totally philosophical and has so many metaphors spread over the course of 200 pages that I kept smiling as I kept making my own theories of sorts. Our lives in comparison to what he told in the form of this story of Siddhartha looks so futile and meaningless. Siddhartha’s experience with his best friend Govinda who leaves him midways as he wants to follow the Buddha as their paths cross with the great man. Siddhartha’s experience with a courtesan how he finds love, his friendship with a boatman during the course of his journey in search of meaning and his companionship with a local rich businessman was simply amazing (and the highlight of the entire story). I loved the way he clearly says that the knowledge can be imparted but not wisdom, for that you need to choose your own path and find it yourself, you can get the guidance, someone can show you the path but it is you who has to actually walk on it and learn it yourself. It was heartening to see Siddhartha trying the same thing with his own son, while his son revolts and gradually he gives up because of the same that his friend tells him to let him learn his own ways and there is no way Siddhartha could pass on Wisdom to such a young kid.
I am definitely going to read this shortly again and will discuss it further more with my Dad once we meet next month and come back with another blabber :).
Have you read Siddhartha? Which one is your favorite Hermann Hesse book, do let me know, I am going to do a little more reading of his books soon.