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Shantaram… November 16, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations.
Tags: , , ,

Shantaram…, originally uploaded by Colors of My Dreams.

‘This social work seems to suit you,’ Didier commented through an arch smile. ‘You look so well and fit – underneath the bruises and scratches, that is. I think you must be a very bad man, in your heart of hearts, Lin. Only a wicked man would derive such benefit from good works. A good man, on the other hand, would simply be worn out and bad tempered.’

These are my favourite lines from the cult classic ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. I shared an incredible fellowship with ‘Shantaram’ in the last one month. The book went with me wherever I went. I read a few pages every night, soaking in the adventures of Lin, before drifting off to sleep.

The characters of Abdul Khader Khan, Abdullah Taheri, Prabaker, Karla, Nazeer, Lisa, the Zodiac Georges and Standing Babas and the locales of Sunder Village, Leopold’s, Kandahar, Arthur Road Prison, Haji Ali Mosque, and the city of Mumbai seemed so real, so alive that I almost felt that I was not reading a book, but actually living in the story as an observer.

Shantaram (official website) is an ‘autobiographical novel?” where there is no clear delineation between fact and fiction. It is based on the extraordinary real life experiences of Gregory David Roberts, an Australian foreign armed robber and fugitive who spent eight years in the Bombay underworld. The book is a tremendous test of his willpower as Roberts had to write it 3 times, after prison guards trashed the first two versions.

If you are an Indophile, with a particular affinity for Mumbai (Bombay), the quintessential Indian city of dreams and home to Bollywood, towering skyscrapers, sprawling chawls, vada pav and teeming millions on the move, you will enjoy reading Shantaram.

Shantaram is soon to be made into a movie, directed by Mira Nair and starring Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan. Shantaram rocks for its adventures, amazing story telling, vivid descriptions and moral purpose.

But then again, back to my main purpose of writing this post, which is a reflection on the first paragraph. Is it true that wicked people can derive benefits from good deeds? What leads them to this experience? Is it redemption for the soul? Or the inner peace that you gain when you make a conscious effort of doing something good?

Here are a couple of interesting posts on Shantaram from the blogosphere. Enjoy!
Archana: Shantaram… By Gregory David Roberts
Ashok Karania: Shantaram
El: Shantaram & the idea of a noisy novel
Neeta Shenoy: Living with ‘Shantaram’
Narasimha Shastri: Shantaram – Book Review



1. Grey Rainbow - स्याह इंद्रधनुष - December 19, 2007

Hi Arun,

is wickedness not a relative term ? what you consider wicked may not be wicked for me. We all look for redemption of the soul, yes sooner or later we do, mostly later. I am a Shantaram fan, the book made me stand thinking almost what you have been thinking.


स्याह इन्द्रधनुष

2. Shantaram « Grey Rainbow / स्याह इंद्रधनुष - December 19, 2007

[…] Arun […]

3. Neeraj Singh - December 26, 2007

I am also loving this novel. I have just started reading this novel and realized very soon that it is going to take some time before I will finish it.

So, started posting some of the interesting stuffs from the book in the blog 🙂



4. stalherz - June 18, 2008


This was the most amazing book I’ve ever read. Not just because of the history, story, style – but the fact that the author lived most of it.

Truly it is one of those works that will stand as a monument to the turn of literature. I read it first in L.A., then finished on the Subways of New York. It has been difficult to find something else to match it’s wonder.


5. Bhat - January 19, 2009

Amazing book ; so vivid that all of it could almost be true. He is a compulsive writer and an effortless one..the descriptions , the ‘karma’ component , the dialogues are mindblowing. He is a ‘natural ‘ writer …unlike some who take years to complete a book and thereafter receive an award. And am thoroughly impressed the way he could merge and understand the attitudes , culture of the Indians almost as if he were an Indian in an earlier birth !

6. altufaltu - April 30, 2009

Its a great novel.

7. Anjela Gogoi - July 6, 2009

This book is not to read, It is to realize. The words go deep within through eyes and engrave in mind, they just can’t be explained

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