"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."
So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.
Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.
As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.
Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.
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About the Author
Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram and its sequel, The Mountain Shadow, was born in Melbourne, Australia. Sentenced to nineteen years in prison for a series of armed robberies, he escaped and spent ten of his fugitive years in Bombay—where he established a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, and worked as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia. Recaptured, he served out his sentence, and established a successful multimedia company upon his release. Roberts is a now full-time writer and lives in Bombay.
Read an Excerpt
By Gregory David Roberts
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Gregory David Roberts
All rights reserved.
It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you've got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.
In my case, it's a long story, and a crowded one. I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum-security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun-towers, I became my country's most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me across the world to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed, and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died. They were better men than I am, most of them: better men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else's hate, or love, or indifference. And I buried them, too many of those men, and grieved their stories and their lives into my own.
But my story doesn't begin with them, or with the mafia: it goes back to that first day in Bombay. Fate put me in the game there. Luck dealt the cards that led me to Karla Saaranen. And I started to play it out, that hand, from the first moment I looked into her green eyes. So it begins, this story, like everything else—with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.
The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport. I was excited and delighted by it, in that first Bombay minute, escaped from prison and new to the wide world, but I didn't and couldn't recognise it. I know now that it's the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it's the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It's the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilisations in resurrection and decay. It's the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. Karla once called it the worst good smell in the world, and she was right, of course, in that way she had of being right about things. But whenever I return to Bombay, now, it's my first sense of the city—that smell, above all things—that welcomes me and tells me I've come home.
The next thing I noticed was the heat. I stood in airport queues, not five minutes from the conditioned air of the plane, and my clothes clung to sudden sweat. My heart thumped under the command of the new climate. Each breath was an angry little victory. I came to know that it never stops, the jungle sweat, because the heat that makes it, night and day, is a wet heat. The choking humidity makes amphibians of us all, in Bombay, breathing water in air; you learn to live with it, and you learn to like it, or you leave.
Then there were the people. Assamese, Jats, and Punjabis; people from Rajasthan, Bengal, and Tamil Nadu; from Pushkar, Cochin, and Konarak; warrior caste, Brahmin, and untouchable; Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Parsee, Jain, Animist; fair skin and dark, green eyes and golden brown and black; every different face and form of that extravagant variety, that incomparable beauty, India.
All the Bombay millions, and then one more. The two best friends of the smuggler are the mule and the camel. Mules carry contraband across a border control for a smuggler. Camels are unsuspecting tourists who help the smuggler to get across the border. To camouflage themselves, when using false passports and identification papers, smugglers insinuate themselves into the company of fellow travellers—camels, who'll carry them safely and unobtrusively through airport or border controls without realising it.
I didn't know all that then. I learned the smuggling arts much later, years later. On that first trip to India I was just working on instinct, and the only commodity I was smuggling was my self, my fragile and hunted freedom. I was using a false New Zealand passport, with my photograph substituted in it for the original. I'd done the work myself, and it wasn't a perfect job. I was sure it would pass a routine examination, but I knew that if suspicions were aroused, and someone checked with the New Zealand High Commission, it would be exposed as a forgery fairly quickly. On the journey to India from Auckland, I'd roamed the plane in search of the right group of New Zealanders. I found a small party of students who were making their second trip to the sub-continent. Urging them to share their experience and travellers' tips with me, I fostered a slender acquaintance with them that brought us to the airport controls together. The various Indian officials assumed that I was travelling with that relaxed and guileless group, and gave me no more than a cursory check.
I pushed through alone to the slap and sting of sunlight outside the airport, intoxicated with the exhilaration of escape: another wall scaled, another border crossed, another day and night to run and hide. I'd escaped from prison almost two years before, but the fact of the fugitive life is that you have to keep on escaping, every day and every night. And while not completely free, never completely free, there was hope and fearful excitement in the new: a new passport, a new country, and new lines of excited dread on my young face, under the grey eyes. I stood there on the trample street, beneath the baked blue bowl of Bombay sky, and my heart was as clean and hungry for promises as a monsoon morning in the gardens of Malabar.
'Sir! Sir!' a voice called from behind me.
A hand grabbed at my arm. I stopped. I tensed every fighting muscle, and bit down on the fear. Don't run. Don't panic. I turned.
A small man stood before me, dressed in a grimy brown uniform, and carrying my guitar. More than small, he was a tiny man, a dwarf, with a large head, and the startled innocence of Down syndrome in his features. He thrust the guitar at me.
'Your music, sir. You are losing your music, isn't it?'
It was my guitar. I realised at once that I must've forgotten it near the baggage carousel. I couldn't guess how the little man had known that it belonged to me. When I smiled my relief and surprise, the man grinned back at me with that perfect sincerity we fear and call simple-minded. He passed the guitar to me, and I noticed that his hands were webbed like the feet of a wading bird. I pulled a few notes from my pocket and offered them to him, but he backed away awkwardly on his thick legs.
'Not money. We are here to help it, sir. Welcome in India,' he said, and trotted away into the forest of bodies on the path.
I bought a ticket to the city with the Veterans' Bus Service, manned by ex-servicemen from the Indian army. I watched as my backpack and travel bag were lifted to the top of a bus, and dumped onto a pile of luggage with precise and nonchalant violence, and decided to keep the guitar in my hands. I took a place on the bench seat at the back of the bus, and was joined there by two long-haired travellers. The bus filled quickly with a mix of Indians and foreigners, most of them young, and travelling as inexpensively as possible.
When the bus was close to full, the driver turned in his seat, scowled at us menacingly, spat a jet of vivid red betel juice through the open doorway, and announced our imminent departure.
'Thik hain, challo!'
The engine roared, gears meshed with a growl and thunk, and we sped off at alarming speed through crowds of porters and pedestrians who limped, sprang, or side-stepped out of the way with only millimetres to spare. Our conductor, riding on the bottom step of the bus, cursed them with artful animosity.
The journey from the airport to the city began on a wide, modern motorway, lined with shrubs and trees. It was much like the neat, pragmatic landscape that surrounded the international airport in my home city, Melbourne. The familiarity lulled me into a complacency that was so profoundly shattered, at the first narrowing of the road, that the contrast and its effect seemed calculated. For the first sight of the slums, as the many lanes of the motorway became one, and the trees disappeared, clutched at my heart with talons of shame.
Like brown and black dunes, the acres of slums rolled away from the roadside, and met the horizon with dirty heat-haze mirages. The miserable shelters were patched together from rags, scraps of plastic and paper, reed mats, and bamboo sticks. They slumped together, attached one to another, and with narrow lanes winding between them. Nothing in the enormous sprawl of it rose much above the height of a man.
It seemed impossible that a modern airport, full of prosperous and purposeful travellers, was only kilometres away from those crushed and cindered dreams. My first impression was that some catastrophe had taken place, and that the slums were refugee camps for the shambling survivors. I learned, months later, that they were survivors, of course, those slum-dwellers: the catastrophes that had driven them to the slums from their villages were poverty, famine, and bloodshed. And five thousand new survivors arrived in the city every week, week after week, year after year.
As the kilometres wound past, as the hundreds of people in those slums became thousands, and tens of thousands, my spirit writhed. I felt defiled by my own health and the money in my pockets. If you feel it at all, it's a lacerating guilt, that first confrontation with the wretched of the earth. I'd robbed banks, and dealt drugs, and I'd been beaten by prison warders until my bones broke. I'd been stabbed, and I'd stabbed men in return. I'd escaped from a hard prison full of hard men, the hard way—over the front wall. Still, that first encounter with the ragged misery of the slum, heartbreak all the way to the horizon, cut into my eyes. For a time, I ran onto the knives.
Then the smoulders of shame and guilt flamed into anger, became fist-tightening rage at the unfairness of it: What kind of a government, I thought, what kind of a system allows suffering like this?
But the slums went on, kilometre after kilometre, relieved only by the awful contrast of the thriving businesses and crumbling, moss-covered apartment buildings of the comparatively affluent. The slums went on, and their sheer ubiquity wore down my foreigner's pieties. A kind of wonder possessed me. I began to look beyond the immensity of the slum societies, and to see the people who lived within them. A woman stooped to brush forward the black satin psalm of her hair. Another bathed her children with water from a copper dish. A man led three goats with red ribbons tied to the collars at their throats. Another man shaved himself at a cracked mirror. Children played everywhere. Men carried water in buckets. Men made repairs to one of the huts. And everywhere that I looked, people smiled and laughed.
The bus stopped in a stutter of traffic, and a man emerged from one of the huts near my window. He was a foreigner, as pale-skinned as any of the new arrivals on the bus, and dressed only in a wrap-around sheet of hibiscus-patterned cotton. He stretched, yawned, and scratched unselfconsciously at his naked belly. There was a definitive, bovine placidity in his face and posture. I found myself envying that contentment, and the smiles of greeting he drew from a group of people who walked past him to the road.
The bus jerked into motion once more, and I lost sight of the man. But that image of him changed everything in my attitude to the slums. Seeing him there, a man as alien to the place as I was, let me picture myself in that world. What had seemed unimaginably strange and remote from my experience suddenly became possible, and comprehensible, and, finally, fascinating.
I looked at the people, then, and I saw how busy they were—how much industry and energy described their lives. Occasional sudden glimpses inside the huts revealed the astonishing cleanliness of that poverty: the spotless floors, and glistening metal pots in neat, tapering towers. And then, last, what should've been first, I saw how beautiful they were: the women wrapped in crimson, blue, and gold; the women walking barefoot through the tangled shabbiness of the slum with patient, ethereal grace; the white-toothed, almond-eyed handsomeness of the men; and the affectionate camaraderie of the fine-limbed children, older ones playing with younger ones, many of them supporting baby brothers and sisters on their slender hips. And half an hour after the bus ride began, I smiled for the first time.
'It ain't pretty,' the young man beside me said, looking at the scene beyond the window. He was Canadian, the maple leaf patch on his jacket declared: tall and heavy-set, with pale eyes, and shoulder-length brown hair. His companion looked like a shorter, more compact version of himself; they even wore identical stonewashed jeans, sandals, and soft, calico jackets.
'This your first time?' he asked in reply. I nodded. 'I thought so. Don'tworry. From here on, it gets a little better. Not so many slums and all. But it ain't good anywheres in Bombay. This here is the crummiest city in India, y'can take my word.'
'You got that right,' the shorter man agreed.
'But from here on in, you got a couple nice temples and some big British buildings that are okay—stone lions and brass street lights and like that. But this ain't India. The real India is up near the Himalayas, at Manali, or at the holy city of Varanasi, or down the coast, at Kerala. You gotta get outta the city to find the real India.'
'Where are you guys headed?'
'We're going to stay at an ashram,' his friend announced. 'It's run by the Rajneeshis, at Poona. It's the best ashram in the country.'
Two pairs of clear, pale-blue eyes stared at me with the vague, almost accusatory censure of those who've convinced themselves that they've found the one true path.
'You checkin' in?'
'You checkin' into a room, or you passin' on through Bombay today?'
'I don't know,' I replied, turning to look through the window once more. It was true: I didn't know whether I wanted to stay in Bombay for a while or continue on to ... somewhere else. I didn't know, and it didn't matter to me. Just at that moment, I was what Karla once called the most dangerous and fascinating animal in the world: a brave, hard man, without a plan. 'I haven't really got any plans. But I think I'll stay in Bombay for a while.'
'Well, we're stayin' overnight, and catchin' the train tomorrow. If you want, we can share a room. It's a lot cheaper with three.'
I met the stare in his guileless, blue eyes. Maybe it would be better to share a room at first, I thought. Their genuine documents and their easy smiles would smother my false passport. Maybe it would be safer.
'And it's a lot safer,' he added.
'Yeah, right,' his friend agreed.
'Safer?' I asked, assuming a nonchalance I didn't feel.
The bus was moving more slowly, along narrow channels of three- and four-storey buildings. Traffic churned through the streets with wondrous and mysterious efficiency—a ballistic dance of buses, trucks, bicycles, cars, ox-carts, scooters, and people. The open windows of our battered bus gave us the aromas of spices, perfumes, diesel smoke, and the manure of oxen, in a steamy but not unpleasant mix, and voices rose up everywhere above ripples of unfamiliar music. Every corner carried gigantic posters, advertising Indian films. The supernatural colours of the posters streamed behind the tanned face of the tall Canadian.
'Oh, sure, it's a lot safer. This is Gotham City, man. The street kids here have more ways to take your money than hell's casino.'
'It's a city thing, man,' the short one explained. 'All cities are the same. It's not just here. It's the same in New York, or Rio, or Paris. They're all dirty and they're all crazy. A city thing, you know what I'm sayin'? You get to the rest of India, and you'll love it. This is a great country, but the cities are truly fucked, I gotta say.'
'And the goddamn hotels are in on it,' the tall one added. 'You can get ripped off just sittin' in your hotel room and smokin' a little weed. They do deals with the cops to bust you and take all your money. Safest thing is to stick together and travel in groups, take my word.'
Excerpted from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Copyright © 2003 Gregory David Roberts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
THE FIRST WALL - Forgiveness, Love and The Writer's Dream: A Biographical Note on the Writing ofShantaram
The first wall of any prison is the one that surrounds the heart; it's put inside the man, before the man's put inside the prison. It's that wall of flesh and fear that keeps men confined. And when you escape, when you break out, it's the wall within yourself that you have to scale first, before you get anywhere near the one made of stone and steel. I learned that the hard way, by standing on the front wall of a maximum-security prison, between two gun-towers, at one o'clock in the afternoon. I was calm, as I stood there in the long, heart-thud second before sliding down the rope to freedom - calmer than I should've been with only one throw of the dice between escaping from prison and being shot dead - because I'd already climbed the big wall in my heart, and no matter what the outcome, escaped or dead, I was already damned and already free.
Years later, after I'd spent ten years on the run as my country's Most Wanted Man, after I'd been to two wars, and set up a clinic for the poor in a Bombay slum, and worked as a forger, counterfeiter, smuggler and gunrunner for a branch of the Bombay mafia, after I'd been captured and imprisoned in Germany with Europe's most notorious terrorists, after I'd been extradited to Australia and put into solitary confinement for two years as a punishment for escaping, I discovered and then had to scale another wall that pride and fear and rage had built in my heart. I'd written the first 300 pages of a novel, based on my life, and I returned to my cell one day, from two hours of walking the exercise cage, to find that a sadistic prison officer had torn the manuscript into fragments no bigger than a thumbnail, and used them to fill the toilet bowl to overflowing.
An anger, throbbing so hard in my heart and my blood that it ached in my head, tormented me: I had to literally flush away three years of work. The inequitable cruelty of the guard's actions - I had every legal permission to write my manuscript - was no less injurious than the blow made against my art: strike at my face, hurt my body, I'll accept it, but don't hurt my work. Resisting and denying the impulse to strike back took an effort of will that strained the whole of me, body and soul, and left me stronger, in some remote, eternal sense, and yet shudderingly diminished at the same time.
When my two years in solitary ended, I was transferred to maximum security, where I had to serve out the remaining four years of my sentence. After receiving permission once again, I began work on the second draft of the manuscript. Three-and-a-half years and 350 pages later, I returned from work in a prison factory to find that the second draft of the novel had also been destroyed, with fragments of my work scattered throughout my cell and out onto the prison tier.
I sat down on the bed in my cell, surrounded by the pieces of my heart, and I recalled the two times I'd been tortured in an Indian prison, during the years that I was on the run. I remembered that the first time I'd been chained face-up, lying on my back, so that I could see the men who were taking turns in teams to torture me. I remembered looking the men in the eye one by one, until my own eyes were too filled with blood, and sending them the message: Yes, I see you, I'll remember you, I'll get you, one way or another, I'll get you for this ...And then I recalled the second systematic, torturous beating, two months after the first - face down, that time, so that I couldn't see the men, the many men, the twenty men who took turns to whip and slash my body with razored bamboo canes. I remembered struggling to lift my face from the muck as my arms were stretched out and chained beside me. I remembered thinking that I might drown in my own blood and tears, and then finding myself in the moment of that choking, drowning thought floating above my own body. It was as if I'd had an artist's view of my own stripped and bloodied self, and of the men whose arms rose and fell and rose again, and fell again, in the frantic jazz of the flogging. And last, and strongest of those memories was the thought that had claimed me, and saved me, and freed me in that floating moment: Let it go. Forgive them. Let it go, if you want to live...
I found the prison officer who'd destroyed the second draft of my book. I told him that I forgave him. He didn't believe me, at first. He was expecting violence, and he braced himself for a fight. I told him that I thought I knew where cruelty such as his came from, that I'd learned something about it in the years that I'd been on the run. I told him that cruelty begins as an agony in the self, before it's inflicted on others, and I felt sorry that such an agony existed in his heart. I also told him that I wanted to thank him. He was still wary, still suspecting a trick that might lure him in close enough for a head-butt or a thumb in the eye. He snarled at me. You want to thank me, do ya? I did. I thanked him for giving me the chance to scale the high wall in my angry heart and test my capacity for forgiveness - if I could forgive that destruction of six years' work, I could forgive just about anything - and I wanted to thank him for making the book a better novel.
And it is: Shantaram changed as a result of that destruction, and it's a far more complex book, for its long, agonised gestation period, than it ever would've been had they just let me write it from the first draft. And the prison officer, who expected to be attacked that day, changed as well. He looked down at his polished boots when I finished talking, and mumbled: I'm sorry. I don't know why I done it. I shouldn't have done it. I don't know why I did. I'm sorry. I'm sorry ...
The coda to this account of having my manuscript destroyed twice in prison is that I met that prison officer again, just recently, while I was speaking at the Writers Festival in Melbourne. He approached me after I'd addressed an audience on the very theme of Forgiveness as a Literary Virtue, and told me that he'd changed his life in ways that resembled the changes occurring in mine. He'd left the prison service, soon after the incident where he'd destroyed my novel. In the years that followed, he'd enrolled in a course of night-school classes that brought him to study literature, as an adult student at university. We hugged. He cried. And I signed, with no little love and passioned thanks, his copy of the book he'd once destroyed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In protest to the chronic tangent in which this book was written, I am presenting my review in outline format. Enjoy. What I liked: 1. Tremendous adventure with MANY unique and memorable characters. It's hard to believe that this book is pretty much a true story. 2. Incredible descriptions of India (Bombay in particular). I've never traveled to India but in speaking to people who have read this book AND been to India, I am assured he captures the essence of this country to a tee. Now the fact that a good part of the book takes place in a slum and I could just about smell the fecal festooned sidewalks through my mind's nostril is a different story, but still, very admirable descriptions. 3. To piggy back on #2, I appreciated the history and cultural context he provided along with the events that affected the story (conflict with Iran, Pakistan, etc.) To a history buff, this is always helpful and welcomed. What I Didn't Like: 1. The LENGTH - It is soul crushing and SO UNNECESSARY!!!! I would've catapulted this book to a 5-star rating if he had kept to the story telling, which honestly would have cut the length in half, and avoided the self aggrandizing, completely obnoxious philosophical bull sh*t!! I mean, ok, I get it, you went through hell and back, met some crazy powerful and charismatic people, found yourself, lost yourself, whatever. But when you're in the middle of telling me about a potentially huge drug bust, or about to go have sex with a woman with whom you've built up a tremendous amount of tension, I could give to flying f's about your thoughts about the universe moving towards the "ultimate complexity". I. just. don't. care. 2. The "Lesson per Chapter" Approach - Again, to piggy back on #1, the ratio of actual story telling to the author's introspective musings is truly 60/40. As I was saying earlier, in some cases these musings would pop up at a very inopportune moment in the story, but in most cases they appear in the closing of each chapter giving the book an infuriating "lesson of the day" feel to it. Furthermore, the predictable apparition of these delusional gems honestly cheapened the message and by the second half the book I always knew when a chapter was coming to a close because my eyes would start rolling and my sighs of exasperation would increase in strength and volume. 3. My Disappointment - I wanted so badly to love this book. On almost every book site of which I am a member it gets rave reviews. Multilple friends and family members recommended it to me with great enthusiasm. But, alas, I just did not like it. I finished it on Christmas Eve and had I not had several glasses of wine at that point, I would have thrown the book directly into the crackling fire out of pure spite.
A meaty book, almost 1000 pages long, and every page leaves you hungry for more. I fell in love with this book, though it was a chance encounter in the store that caused me to buy it. I will never regret buying this book. Wonderful!
this is a very well written book that i enjoyed until the end. although it is quite lenghty, it is worth the journey.
Amazing story and very well told. Cannot put it down (not a typical biography book). A+++
This writer is fantastic. His manner of of writing is bright, with fresh discriptive visual cues. I love how the writer makes me feel a longing to know and understand India. The manner in which I am brought along with the main character, Lin, through the ztreets of Bombay, or on an all day and night trip to a small villiage to visit the family of a friend let me walk along side him as he learned how to love India. I want to read rhis for a second time.'7667y
Fabulous writing, the descriptions of foods, smells, sights makes you feel like you are there with the author. His broken english diction as spoken by the native Indians is laugh out loud funny at times and very endearing. From a historical perspective, just as eye-opening as the accounts offered in the 2 books in the headline. Gripping drama, fantastic and colorful cast of characters.
Great novel. Very nostalgic. He presents Bombay in its original light. The light of the near past. The description of the land, it's people and the author's relation with the city is beautiful. A must read for anybody who loves Bombay and anybody who wants to know about this magnanimous metropolis. And I met Greg Roberts in Leopold Cafe in Colaba in 2005 while I was on a trip home. I also got his autograph on a 10 Rupee note. It was a day I will never forget. The simplicity of the characters, the boldness of their friendship, the love between the characters, the ruthlessness of the city, the humid salty air and the hustle-bustle, the hugeness of the city and yet its ability to make you her own is captured very well by the author. A+ for Gregory David Roberts. You make me proud of being a Mumbaikar!
Shantaram is a beautifully crafted novel telling the tale of an ex-con attempting to escape his formerly tumultuous life by assimilating into the bustling life of Bombay, India. I need say no more for it encompasses all the themes a modern masterpiece requires and never disappoints. It is a must read for the avid reader and the book's massive size shouldn't make anyone think twice before setting his/her hands on it. It is one of my favorite books of all time and I'd usually be hesitant to say this because I have read some other remarkable novels but this one stands out from the rest of the crowd. Keep an eye out for Gregory David Roberts in the future, because this book will surely elevate him to the status of other literary veterans of today, just as The Kite Runner did to Khaled Hosseini.
One of my all-time favorite books. I've read it twice so far. Roberts gives you a true-to-life feeling of what it would be like to live in the slums of Mumbai with all the experiences that would entail. His characters come alive. The fact that this is based on fact makes it even more compelling. Two of my daughters decided to travel to India after reading this book and said most of the young travelers there were either carrying the book with them or hoping to get a copy. They actually stayed in a hotel over Leopold's. By the way, they loved India and found it fascinating.
Had I known exactly what I was getting into I might never have bought this book. If I¿d been cautioned about the aggression and violence I might have missed out on the honor, beauty, and love. The casual tone used to describe the underground world of forgery, murder, and drug and weapons trafficking contrasts with exquisite tales of beauty, betrayal, devastation, redemption, and hope. Shantaram puts a magnifying glass to the horrible living conditions of some of the worlds most beautiful people and how their paths cross with others living in the splendor of wealth and power. A window is opened onto the worlds of wild partying in Bombay, Bollywood movie making, and even guerilla warfare in the remote regions of Afghanistan. The sweltering heat and frigid chill can¿t compare with the passions that rule the characters in this book.
Tantalizing, This personal vivid depiction had me completely absorbed page by page.
"Every human heartbeat is a universe of possibilities."
This is one of the best books I have ever read! It is filled with danger, drama & romance. Very wordly & thought provoking & the perfect balance of fiction & fact. Also, great for men & women and anyone interested in Indian culture. It is very long but well worth the read! I heard there have been talks of a movie? I would def be one of the first in line.
this book is great. when i got the book i was hesitant to start a 900+ page book. once i got in to it, was glad i did. the story is packed with adventure and thoughts on life and living. this is one of those books i want to own and not borrow from the library, because there are many parts i underlined. i posted some of the content on facebook to stimulate the minds of friends and maybe evoke a discussion. if you like books that are exciting and thought provoking, you will be glad you read this book.
This by far is one of the greatest modern day novels ever written. The story is captivating, the characters rich, the background electrifying. The author really draws you in to his adventurous life in Bombay. I was sad when the book came to an end.
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I couldn't put it down. It made me want to visit India. Very insightful and beautifully written. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
A must read- he is a great storyteller, and the thread of truth woven throughout gives credibility to the fiction. Can't wait for his next book "A Mountain Shadow!"
Intelligent, romantic, and heroic - it was a pleasure to read the delicious words written to create the story, find out about the characters, and learn the lessons sprinked throughout the novel.
This is truly one of the most entertaining, enlightening, and extraordinary books i've read in my 35 years on this planet. The fact-based plot is intriguing while brilliant writing keeps the story fast-moving--despite its lumbering 800+ page count. Beyond the plot and the incredibly rich and deep character development, this novel was also brimming with incredible philosophical insight that kept me reading with a highlighter at the ready. I've recommended this book to over half a dozen people and each of them has loved, not liked but loved, this novel as much as i did. Due to it's length and sometimes dark language/themes that reflected the dire poverty and the Hindi mafiosos featured in the book, I wouldn't recommend it for book club though.
One of the best books I have read in a long time, and I am a bookseller and have read a lot of books. The writing is wonderful. It gives better insight into the people of India than anything I have ever read. The only bad part about the book is that it had to come to an end. I can't wait for more books from this author.
I can say I enjoyed this novel more than any other since Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follet. The imagery and style of writing plus the story kept my attention immeasurably. If you liked Slum Dog Millianaire, or if someone described their experience, while in India, you will find this 936 page novel hard to put down. It is a book that gets around by word of mouth. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
This book was quite extraordinary! The stories the author lived through and the fact that he was so persisent in writing it!! He lost it and re-wrote 13 times I think...very impressive. I am able to relate to some of the experiences he had in the book as I have been to India many times before. While there was a whole section of the book which probably could have been deleted and the effect would have remained the same, it is still a very compelling story and worth reading.
Sure, he can go on and on about insignificant details, or how beautiful Karla is. But so what? I'm about a big a prickler as anyone when it comes to writing styles, but for some reason I was able to put my nitpicking on hold and just let the huge story of this man's life envelop me. If you don't love Prabaker, you don't have a heart.
This is the only novel that has made me cry.
Flawed, but beautiful nonetheless.
Bombay / Mumbai comes alive in these pages. You are there.
on the top of my list of the best reads I ever came across. it starts off a little slow, but there is no one plot, it is an autobio of the first rate. the author's writing is very descriptive . and so many profound sayings that you want to underline them. if they ever made a movie of this , the only one who could play the main character[author] would be Edward Norton!
Totally engaging, can't recommend enough
An epic of India. Good read.