Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is my latest conquest(his BOOK i.e!) and a fantastic read 🙂 All it took for me to finish it is a viral fever stint at home for 4 days :)..


Since the story can be found anywhere on the web ,am going with what I liked (or disliked) about the book..

My Favourite Character : My favourite character HAS to be Prabhakar.Someone who sees the world through rosy glassses and believes in the inherent goodness of everyone and someone whose smile is described as the widest possible.I even love the adorable way he speaks English.I think every paragraph with Prabhaker’s character in it was a real pleasure to read and it actually bought a Laugh to my lips! 🙂

Quotes :When they are about to board a general class compartment in the train (a first for our Australian dude Lin), Prabhaker arranges for a porter to literally carry the dude inside.Its just too hilarious.Prabhaker, before they climb onto the train, asks Lin to catch hold of the porter ‘s shirt and tells

Say it also Lin, Say it the words – I Will never Let it go the Shirts

My LEAST favourite Character : It will have to be Karla.I sorta intuitively never liked her from the time she appeared in the book.Although the protagonist falls in love with her the first time he sees her.Karla seems like one of those people who just dont trust anyone, are sly and cover up their own lives to create some sort of weird mystery and use everyone who comes their way for their own selfish purposes.

My favourite part of the book : The Head of the slum, Qasim Ali, meting out justice. He says “Justice is not only the way of punishing those who do wrong, it is also the way of saving them“.The grace with which he reforms a wife beater and a drunkard is worth reading.The same wife beater becomes a better man and even goes on to the become the head of the slum after a few years. Another instance is when two men start quarelling over something.Qasim intervenes and gets them to tie a rope around 1 of their legs so that they work “together”. The couldnt walk without cooperating with each other..And thats how it worked.:)

Oh and I got one more.The bear and the bear keepers!! The bear appears the first time, sent by Abdullah to hug Lin (Since Lin  used the term “bear hug” once! LOL).The entire slum gathers to watch the bear, which seems so adorable and harmless 🙂 ..Then it again makes an appearance towards the end where the slum dwellers and Lin dress the bear up like Ganapathi to save it from the police and parade it some 3-4 kms down the road on a vegetable cart! I could just imagine what an adventure that would have been!!

My LEAST favourite part of the book : I think it has to be the war in Afghanistan.It seemed to stretch forever..and did not seem to have any real purpose to me.

What Shocked Me : Arthur Road Jail and its conditions as described by the author.The author is arrested for no good reason and is tortured for months inside the jail without having a clue about WHY he is in there (Very “ZINDA”) Its disgusting that our police will act according the whims of just about anyone..

And definitely Madame Zhou, the famous and very powerful “pimp” — owner of the “Madame Zhou’s Palace” and the things she got people to do there..! Ughhh..

What Lightened My Mood : Apart from Prabhaker, it was the way Vikram pursued his love, Lettie relentlessly. Every time he appeared in the book, he was trying to woo Lettie.And finally he wins over her by proposing to her atop a moving train..very filmy and pretty entertaining! And Didier’s one liners kept the mood light too..
My favourite “philosophical” part : Philosophical discussions ..There were many of those in this book.It will surprise you how philosophical a smuggler, counterfeit money minter and a DON can be.Although I found most of the philosophical discussions between Lin and Abdur Rehman (the great Don) a tad stretchy,there was this one concept which sorta stuck to me.

“Doing the Wrong Things For the Right Reasons”..thats how the DON justified his actions in Afghanistan and at several other circumstances.And Lin realises, that in his life, even the right things were goaded by the wrong reasons! Even the wrong things you do for the “right” reasons are well, wrong and accepting the consequences is the best you can do.So although Lin has escaped from prison for doing whatever it was, his mind is never at rest.There is this one guy who kills another debauched guy from the slum who was mistreating his wife and sister.Lin is amazed at the peace and calmth he sees in his eyes even though he is in prison and he doesnt want any help to get out because he knows he did the Wrong thing, albeit for the right reasons….and this chews up Lin’s mind a lot more than before.

Some facts that I learnt :

1.AK 47 – Avtomat Kalashnikova..Never bothered to find out the full form for AK! :)..This rifle was the most influential and most widely manufactured.It could fire a 100 rounds per minute on Auto and 40 rounds per minute on semi-automatic,single shot mode.Oh and as a limitation,It caused a muzzle flash which was so bright that it sorta temporarily blinded the person firing it and gave away hiis position in the night.Plus sometimes, a round grew so hot in the chamber that it exploded in the user’s face! That was why so many guerilla fighters, held the gun away from their bodies or over their heads in battle operations.

Hmmm we can find more faults in “war” movies ;)..

2.Standing Babas — Also called as Khareshwaris are people who took a vow that they will never sit or lie down for 12 years.They drape themselves on a chest high swing, when they sleep with their legs hanging in the air! Its a form of self inflicted corporal punishment as a way of getting spiritual enlightenment.The first 5-10 years, the legs begin to swell and become bloated out of recognisable shape , resembling a tree with all its gnatted roots.After that, their legs become thinner and thinner till only the bones remain and a thin veneer skin appears to cover them.The author says it is a painful unending agony for the standing babas.If they do walk at all or stand (Instead of suspending themselves on a sling), they keep moving from one feet to other, swaying since the pain of the pressure on one leg is unbearable..Oh and they smoke a LOT of ganja..Understandable I guess!!!

Alrite, I have dissected the book enough..and I dont really think people who havent read it will get it..but I think I am happy with the way I’ve analysed the book 😉 hehe


2 responses to “Shantaram

  1. Wow! My sentiments exactly. Although i don’t quite agree about your take on Karla. I think it’s a defensive mechanism for any woman who has suffered to become ‘cold’ or ‘sly’ and maybe even selfish to a degree so as not to go through similar sufferings again. Prabu is a character i’ll never ever forget. Kudos to you for faithfully highlighting those points. Felt a bit like reading the book all over again. Thanks!

  2. I don’t agree with your opinion on the time Lin spent in Afghanistan….Apart from the fact that it was, obviously, a major part of the protagonist’s life…it also uncovers Karla’s deception, the betrayal of a father figure, Nazeer’s love and an inside look into the lives of the numerous people who fought alongside him. I’m sure you don’t meant to but by saying that the Afghanistan trip had no real purpose you are dismissing the rather emotional, deep and brotherly relationship he developed with all the men there without which his account of his life as a convict would be solely incomplete.
    And….Yeah…Prabakar’s AWESOME. His death killed some of the charm of the book for me.

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