I started reading Shantaram: A Novel, by Gregory David Roberts, in the midst of pursing my CK Masterplan. It’s seldom to find a book that will weave itself into your heart and change the way you look at the world. After reading Shantaram, not only do I have a greater desire to visit India, but want to relish in the experience of going to a new place and meeting the people that call that place their home.
Shantaram is about an Australian man that escapes prison and flees to Bombay, or modern day Mumbai. He falls in love with the city and every chapter includes love, lust, crime, and the fight for power. He quickly finds a friend in the city who supplies the nickname, Linbaba, of Lin for short, which means “penis” in Hindi. Lin takes you on a journey through the slums of Bombay, to Sunder (a remote village in India), to Afghanistan, and many countries in between before returning back to India.
Lin is possessed by the beautiful and charming Karla, minutes after his arrival in Bombay up until the last page of the novel. As a reader you find yourself falling in love with the characters and enjoying their happiness and misfortunes as if they were your friends. I found myself losing faith in humanity only to regain in several chapters later.
One of my favorite quotes from the book, a conversation between Karla and Lin (page 39)-
‘You are a good listener. That’s dangerous, because it’s so hard to resist. Being listened to – really listened to – is the second – best thing in the world.’
‘What’s the first best thing?’
‘Everybody knows that. The best thing in the world is power.’
‘Oh, is it?’ I asked, laughing, ‘What about sex?’
‘No. Apart from the biology, sex is all about power. That’s why it’s such a rush.’
I laughed again.
‘And what about love? A lot of people say that love is the best thing in the world, not power.’
‘They’re wrong,’ she said with a terse finality. ‘Love is the opposite of power. That’s why we fear it so much.’
Shantaram is full of life lessons and the quotes make you want to reach for a pen and paper to remember later. I’d recommend this book to anyone with a hungry soul. I even sent it to my friend, Saied, who lives in Cairo. Unfortunately, they have corruption in the Egyptian customs and the present never arrived, but he’s bought it since!
Fall in love with the city of Bombay in 1980’s through the eyes of a man that goes by many names – Linbaba, Lin, Shantaram, and maybe those who know real name.