After a long lull, I decided to start reading again, and fired up my Kindle.

This time, I chose a book which was on my reading list before, but forgotten until now.

When Breath Becomes Air’ is the autobiography of an unfortunate young man, Paul Kalanithi - a writer, a neurosurgeon - who was on a path to scale great heights, but was stopped short by sickness. The book was incomplete when Paul left this World, and was finished by Paul’s spouse after his death.

The book tells the story of Paul, who after getting a degree in literary field, switches career to become a neurosurgeon - neuroscientist, gets diagnosed with cancer at the end of his decade long, gruelling medical education and residency. After starting therapy, he contemplates whether he should go back to surgical field, or consider becoming a Writer.

After a brief stint in Neurosurgery, he decided to become a Writer - when surgery becomes almost impossible to pursue - and sets out to finish the very book I’m talking about, before his time runs out. His last wish was to get the book published by any means. The book would be his legacy, to his eight month old daughter.

More than once I have been asked ‘Why do you do this?’.

‘This’ being the blog I write in, and the photographs I potray in my Gallery.

The context being ‘You produce content that seems good enough, but no one ever reads it as you do not market it or make any attempts to popularize it, and even if you did, it is highly likely that it would get lost in a sea of similar content.’

‘So then, why spend time, effort, money to do these things?

Earlier, My answer would be ‘It might not make sense, but I write for myself, not for others. Same for photography, I enjoy the process. To me a photograph is a story in a different form, a slice of time which I froze, because I saw something unique’.

Would others understand the meaning behind those words? Would they see what I saw in those images? I would never know. I do it because I like doing it’

Sometime later, ‘thankfully’ my answer became short.

‘I do it because, this is what I’m gonna leave behind.'

Much before I read Paul’s book, I realized my words, and my photographs, were something I could leave behind. A legacy of sorts. Like a caveman who carved stories on the walls of their caves. They may mean something to someone, or they may not mean anything to anyone. They may or may not be of any monetary value.

But nothing more could be a true representation of who I was, whom I cared about, what I valued, than my own works.

A part of me has always wondered though, ‘Is this even a worthy legacy?'

I got my answer when I finished ‘When Breath becomes Air’.

Paul passed away before his professional career could take off. In the short period between his diagnosis, and death, he worked hard to secure the financial future of his wife and his daughter. It would be reasonable to assume that he did not get to leave behind as much ‘Wealth’ as he would have liked.

Twenty years from now, what would his daughter prefer? A million dollars, or the words her dad left for her, in his book?

Cover Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash