Written in 2003 by Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram is a 936 page long novel which screams for attention right from the bookshelves. And the moment you take it in your hand, you know you’re bound to read this one, till the very end (remember, writing 936 pages is no child’s play, you can almost accommodate 2 books in that word count).
The vivid depiction of the life of the protagonist from Australia to Bombay keeps you chained to the book and gives you a thrilling account of the underworld. Lin narrates the story, who flees to Bombay after getting convicted for an imprisonment of 19 years in Australia. He meets a faithful friend cum driver there, Prabhakar, who named him as Linbaba. Prabhakar takes him to his village, where, his mother rechristens Linbaba as “Shantaram” which means Man of God’s Peace.
For the most part, the book is a factual account of Robert’s exploits and experiences. His escape, criminal history and imprisonment are officially in records. However, the other incidents cannot be verified. Roberts states that the characters of the tale are a combination of real and imagination and combine both the elements. To clear the air, Gregory comments, “With respect, Shantaram is not an autobiography, it’s a novel. If the book reads like an autobiography, I take that as a very high compliment, because I structured the created narrative to read like fiction but feel like fact. I wanted the novel to have the page-turning drive of a work of fiction but to be informed by such a powerful stream of real experience that it had the authentic feel of fact.”
A few of our favourite lines from the book-
- “Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears.”
- “Sometimes you break your heart in the right way, if you know what I mean.”
- “If fate doesn’t make you laugh, you just don’t get the joke.”
- “Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make us buy things.”