Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This book came highly reviewed by some very good friends and I could not wait to start on it.

A lot of times, when I start a book with high expectations, I end up disappointed. In this case, I am so delighted to say, that I was blown away by the book. Influenced by real life events in the life of the author, is an amazing read. Convicted in Australia, for a series of armed robberies, Gregory David Roberts, escaped from prison and travelled to Mumbai, on a fake passport, on his way to Germany. What was supposed to be a stopover, turned into a much longer stay, as he felt instantly at home in the city.

Using his fake name, Lindsay, he gets called Lin or Lin Baba by a guide Prabakar, who then takes him on a tour of Mumbai. Prabakar takes him to places where he would have never taken another foreigner, because he feels that Lin would be able to absorb it all in.Ā  Prabakar is somebody Lin instinctively trusts. As the trust and love between the men grow, Prabakar invites him to his village, where he is greeted with love and affection by Prabakar’s family. Prabakar’s mother bestows the name ‘Shantaram’ on him.

On the way back, Lin and Prabakar are robbed and Prabakar uses his contacts in the slum that he lives in to provide Lin with a place to stay there. Lin ends up living there and becoming a doctor to the inhabitants of the slum, which in turn brings him in contact with the don, Khaderbhai, who owns the slums. Slowly he gets involved in other less charitable activities with the don. Alongside of all this, he picks up Marathi and Hindi and makes some very good friends, who he could trust wholeheartedly. As he says in the book, his loyalty was not to the organisation but to the people in it.Ā  He came to revere Abdel Khader Khan(Khaderbhai) as a father. He would do anything for the people who he considered his own. He followed Khaderbhai to Afghanistan where the don was smuggling arms and ammunition to the mujahideen fighters. There Khaderbhai gets killed which has a very profound effect on Lin. Lin’s concept of honour amongst thieves is brought out well by the decisions he takes in various situations. Most of the incidents narrated are very moving despite the violence that is an integral part of the book. Another extremely impressive thing is how well Lin blends into Bombay. As he tells a cab driver, ‘The face might be white, but he is all ‘Hindustani’ inside’.

The story is not without a romantic angle. Early in the book, when he had just reached Bombay, he met the mysterious Karla Sarenson, a Swiss-American woman who refused to reciprocate his love. His love for her, is a thread running through the book.

It was such a voluminous book, and yet I just wanted it to go on and on. The narrative keeps you engaged and wanting for more until the very last line.Ā  It is a book that I will definitely read, and re-read. It was for me, a 5/5 book.

38 thoughts on “Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

    • Smithu, you finished reading and done the review too…WOW, I still have a few more chapters to go…was held up with various other things…. šŸ™‚

      Its superb narrative holds me captive, all throughout. šŸ™‚

      I just love this book !!! Of course 5/5 for this wonderful book. šŸ™‚

  1. The size has been giving me palpitations and thats why i haven’t managed to pick it up somehow.. but i have hard only good words about the book.. i must pick up the book soon !

  2. Haaa after pestering you so much to read it, I was scared that you would delete me from your friends list in case you didn’t enjoy it šŸ˜€ So now ladies and gentlemen it’s official SAKSHI has a good taste in books…hmmmpf!!

    That I can’t disagree with šŸ™‚ Loved A house for Mr Biswas too! Waiting to get your next recommendation now šŸ™‚ I have decided to follow Sakshi Best Reads List from now on šŸ™‚

    This is one of those books, where you can just pick up a random page and you will still find loads of sentences worth quoting. needless to say one of my all time fave one.

    Absolutely! It was one of the best that I read in recent times.

    That was an awesome review and am sure Prabhakar is flashing his half moon smile at you after reading it :mrgreen:

    Thanks šŸ™‚

  3. fantastic review and your rating is more attractive…rarely any book gets 5/5 :-)…I have added this to my to read list šŸ™‚

    Do try it, Rash. and let me know what you think of it šŸ™‚

  4. great review…i have been planning to read this for a long time…but never got around doing it…..mebbe now is a good time…

    Welcome here Ram pyaari. I loved. Do give it a try.

  5. Oh I have heard a lot about this book. I almost bought it when I was in Delhi last but then put it off for next time and settled for Lost Symbol :D.

    Your review makes me want to pick this book up at the earliest :). Very well done review, Smits šŸ™‚

  6. I started reading this, but somehow found it boring.. couldn’t relate much to the Mumbai backdrop, so I left the book with my mum, who spent her childhood in Bombay šŸ™‚

    • You are sure to find it in the UK. I picked it up from the library and am sure that it will be available in most public libraries and if you want to buy it – W H Smith is sure to stock it šŸ™‚

  7. It is an interesting read. I too would love to read it again-but that takes a lot of time šŸ˜¦

    Re-reading it will take a long time – but you know, I love re-reading such timeless books šŸ™‚ I buy only these sort of books that I am sure I will re-read šŸ™‚

  8. oh its one of my all time fav book… love it and keep picking it up now and then to read a page or too… as I said on FB I am getting a deep desire to read it again fully… I am reading the millenium series right now, I think post that will pick it up again
    šŸ™‚ I just loved it! And it is certainly one of the books that we can read and read and read again šŸ™‚

    Its a brilliant book, will go down as classic of this era

    Absolutely! It is a timeless book!

  9. Pingback: Books that touched me. « UmaS Reflections

  10. Hmmm… this book took me 9 months and 3 breaks to finish. Was not a big fan of it unfortunately. I thought lots of parts dragged on. Some stuff on Bombay I loved but yeah, it was a bit too boring later on for me…

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