AUTHOR – Gregory David Roberts is an Australian author. He is a former heroin addict and a convicted bank robber who escaped from Prison from his homeland and took refuge in India where he stayed for 10 years. He is being told to have gain the addiction to Drugs after a marriage break down and consequent lost custody of the daughter. In his efforts to finance his drug habit, Roberts became known as the "Building Society Bandit, He escaped from Pentridge Prison in 1980. In 1990, Roberts was captured in Frankfurt after being caught smuggling heroin into the country. He was extradited to Australia and served a further six years in prison. During his second stay in Australian prison, Roberts began writing the novel Shantaram. The manuscript was destroyed by prison wardens, twice, while Roberts was writing it. The book is known to be a fiction clown autobiographical note. After living few years in Germany, France etc he came back to settle down in Mumbai where he set up charitable foundations to assist the city's poor with health care coverage. He was finally reunited with his daughter. He got engaged to Francoise Sturdza, who is the president of the Hope For India foundation.
SYNOPSIS –. Its a big novel that you would find standing out from the crowd on the shelf and demanding some strange kind of attention of its own. The book, Shantaram, begins with the entry of a man bearing a New Zealand passport that identifies him as ‘Lindsay’ into downtown Mumbai (Bombay). He is actually an escaped convict from Australia, who flees to a strange land to lose himself and start his life all over again. He finds a friend and a Guide in Prabhakar who leads him to Coloba. Prabaker's tour of the real Bombay leads Lin into the dark underbelly of the city. He witnesses the slave market and visits the hashish den of the Standing Babas. Having grown very close to Lin, Prabaker invites him to visit his home village of Sundar. Lin agrees and they arrive after a cramped and adventurous journey by train and cart. At the village Lin relaxes into the seasonal rhythms. He finds a profound inner-peace and as a result the villagers dub him Shantaram, which means "man of peace." Meanwhile, Lin meets another person who also changes his life, a beautiful woman named Karla, a Swiss-American who seems to have a lot of friends in the expatriate community. He falls in love with her, but is not sure if his love is returned.
Lin’s search for a new life leads him into war, murder, betrayals, and more intrigue. His life, he now finds, is being manipulated by two people- Khader Khan (The suburban cross cultural, intellectual criminal chief and Jehadi pathan) and the beautiful, enigmatic, and dangerous Karla.
PULKIT SPEAKS -
Several years ago I read this book and I can still feel that in today life – a part of it lives in me. This is an incredible tale of self discovery told in the most entertaining manner.
The writer himself continues to call Shantaram as fiction, but looking back at the life that he had lived, one can be sure that he had to be there to write such a detailed account of the prison, Standing Babas, fire racing through the slums, the wounds that forces him to become an unofficial medic, his criminal role in India, among another dozen stories.
Shantaram is a book that you would want to read, irrespective of what class of books you like. It is an engrossing page turner, and I wish that you are not led down by the presumption of its 930 page size.
The narrative value of this book can be considered to be of the highest class possible. This is fiction literature at its very best. The protagonist Named ''Linbaba'' by Prabaker, the amiable taxi driver who becomes his sidekick, he acquires a hut in a slum, where he earns his neighbors' respect by opening a makeshift clinic and learning Hindi and Marathi. Hundred pages into the book and you feel that you have known this man for years, and it seems that he is sitting right there in your room whispering his tale and escapades to you. Nearly everything about Bombay agrees with the philosophical fugitive, for whom every new experience is like a new depth in the spiritual understanding and philosophical learning of life.
He finds a father figure in a gurulike local mafia boss, an Afghan named Khader, and a lover in a mysterious Swiss woman who inspires the most memorable of the novel's many metaphoric interludes. She comes out of text – as a persona – you keep thinking about. He works as a counterfeiter and smuggler within Khader's criminal empire, ultimately abandoning a budding career as a Bollywood agent and joining a holy warfare in Afghanistan. Khader comes out as a skillful, intriguing and thought provoking criminal chief – who works with gun and speaks of morality and metaphysics. There is a genuine sense of storytelling about this book, the character sketching, the descriptiveness and the passion for the feeling about life and the journey of protagonist.
Sometimes a big story is its own best reward. I feel lucky to have come across this book. It changed something in me forever. Something I am yet to know and understand – after all these years.
RATING – 5/5. Shantaram is not just a book; it is a sojourn, a spiritual journey into life that shows that even the most complex and powerful systems have at their core a simple and beautiful pattern. Shantaram reinforces one’s belief in life and how it is absolute in itself.
It makes you want to live more. It makes you want to explore. It makes you want to fall and then rise again. I salute the book – None I can think of to compare this one with. You are missing a part of yourself if you have not read this one yet.
PRICE - Rs 419