Buy Shantaram
Buy Shantaram

Review of the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Published by Abacus publication. ISBN 0-349-11754-3

Why “Shantaram” I wondered when I first read about the book in the book review section of I think The Week, I did plan to read then, but did not actively pursue the book since it did sound very morbid and of course it was written by “Gora” and I am always skeptic about Gora’s writing about Indian culture.

The book does not travel that path, I mean it does not talk about India as a land of snake charmers and spiritual gurus the presentation is very realistic and contemporary. Though nothing peaceful it is about conflicts and philosophy that comes up at interesting places.

The book claims to be a literary non-fiction but is quite autobiographical in nature.

The book opens with the arrival of “Mr. Lindsay” to India who is Gregory Roberts with a borrowed passport. The book is the journey of a revolutionary with no cause, who escapes from jail where he was doing time for armed robbery and heroin possession.  Generally called as Linbaba he comes to city to Bombay in the 1980’s meets and falls in love with Karla.

Linbaba’s journey to finding his home in Bombay, his stay in the slum, running an informal clinic, smuggling, passport racket, mujahedeen  movement are all documented as a voluminous book that flows into 5 parts and each part further divided into chapters.

Linbaba in naturalization into Bombay befriends Prabhakar a tourist guide, and goes to his village, where he learns Marathi, and is adopted by Prabhakar’s parents it is there that he is named ‘Shantaram’ the man of peace. Oh! Yes Linbaba also is into official partnership with Lisa to act and provide “”Gora” extras  for Bollywood.

The book seems so focused on the underbelly of Bombay, the gora lawbreakers; it is as if the city is claimed by Nigerians, Iranians, Europeans and other foreigners. The standard, corporate Bombay land of opportunities is visible as a faint illusion.

The protagonists stay at the Arthur Jail, his travel to Goa finding a father in the underworld don, a brother in Prabhakar does make an interesting though tiresome read.

One good thing about the book is you can flip through the book at any level, any chapter you will still get the book in its totality.

some interesting quotes —

“Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we’ve loved them, left them, or fought them.”
Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

A man has to find a good woman, and when he finds her he has to win her love. then he has to earn her respect. then he has to cherish her trust. and then he has to, like, go on doing that for as long as they live. Until they both die. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the most important thing in the world. That’s what a man is, Yaar. A man is truly a man when he wins the love of a good woman, earns her respect, and keeps her trust. Until you do that, you’re not a man.”
Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

A good book if you are on a long journey and not too tired.

About the author– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_David_Roberts


6 thoughts on “A-Shantaram.

  1. Shantaram is a book which gives the feeling that the writer has gone through the experiences he narrates about. You are quite right about Goras being unreliable reporters for the tend to look out for the exotic in India, but I think that Shantaram succeeds in not following into that trap and seems to be pretty straightforward and frank in its descriptions.

  2. I love this book,also the quotes, like the one you have mentioned about fate, i love them, re-quote them. Also the shorter one, “If fate does not make you laugh, it means you didn’t get the joke”
    Great pick 🙂

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