Shantaram… November 16, 2007Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations.
Tags: Gregory David Roberts, Johnny Depp, Mira Nair, Shantaram
‘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