Thursday, October 30, 2008


“Hello madam, my name is Anil Gupta and I am calling from Bombay, American Express”
“American Express? I don’t want any”
“No no no madam, no no, I am calling from American Express, we are having here Mr. John Finnigan”
“John Finnigan…”
“That arsehole?”
“Yyyessssss…Madam, he is sitting here with me in this office now and”
“That arsehole, Where is he? Where did you say he was?”
“I am in Bombay madam, and he is working…..”
“Bombay?? In India? So that’s where that arsehole is….so that’s where he got to huh?”

“Madam, excuse me, I need you to please give an identification, if you can only tell us, please how does he look,….”
“How does he look? I’ll tell you how he looks, he looks like an arsehole because that’s what he is, he is an arsehole. You just pull down your pants, you sit on a xerox machine, you take a photo of that, you can put that in his passport, because he is an arsehole he looks like an arsehole, he is an arsehole”
“Certainly, certainly Yes madam, thank you very much……I think we can take this as a positive identification”
The above is from a speech of Gregory David Roberts in youtube, and is when he claims that he lost his travelers cheque and an American express officer tries to verify his credentials from his forged American passport. If fate doesn't make you laugh then you just don't get the joke.

Shantaram is a long and crowded real life story depicted in cinemascopic view and about a revolutionary personality: Gregory David Roberts, born on 1952 at Melbourne. A man who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison. He was named Shantaram Kishan Kharre by Rukhmabai, a lady at Sunder village in Maharashtra; also been called as Linbaba by Prabaker, about whom he says “no man who smiled with so much of his heart would knowingly hurt or harm another”

This is not a review, but my view on the book and is been partially extracted from novel violating the copyright for its own benefit, with only intention of making a tribute to it. A book about everything in the world which gives the richest reading experience, no doubt is a literary master piece.

When computers consume most free time and Orkut, GTalk and Youtube let us easily entertained, reading becomes a dying habit. However Books are windows to a wider world through words. Few books and qualities of some characters sink into philosophies of our life and in some way define our destiny. Shantaram is novel about one such living character and a blockbuster book.

The whole story begins with a woman Karla Saaranen, one of the reasons why we crave Love and seek it so desperately is that love is the only cure for loneliness and shame and sorrows, a city-Bombay; Cities are centers of constant and irreversible change and a little bit of luck-what comes from the earth always returns, what flourishes, dies away to bloom again.

In the early 1980s he escaped from an Australian prison at one o’ clock in the afternoon with an intricate plan meticulously executed where if he failed would leave him dead. He believed “Freedom is a universe of possibility; the choice you make between hating and forgiving can become the story of your life.” All his life he was caught between the rock of regulations and the hard place of the fugitive life, ironic to an IT employees life where one jumps from one jail to another.

He lived in slum of Bombay, may be the only one who wrote about the slum and had actually lived there. A dream is the place where a wish and a fear meet; when the wish and the fear are exactly the same, we call the dream a nightmare. The length and breadth of his wisdom acquainted through the journey of life said there is a river that runs through every one of us, no matter where we come from, all over the world. It's the river of the heart and the hearts desire. It's the pure, essential truth of what each one of us is, and can achieve.

The soul has no culture, has no nations, no color or accent or way of life. The soul is for ever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow the soul can't be stilled. He visits a poor and simple village where no one doubted or forgot that its treasure were its people - Sunder village with his new friend prabaker from where he learnt Marathi and Hindi. A man can make his way in the city with his heart and his soul crushed within a clenched fist; but to live in a village he has to unfurl his heart and his soul in his eyes.

Later he joined Bombay mafia, worked as a gun runner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter, was on drugs, addicted to heroin (from where the best hashish in the world grown and produced in the foothills of the himalayas in kashmir), acted in bollywood, fought with mujahedeen in Afghanistan all while being hunted as his country's most wanted man is not what makes him adorable. But his unshakable optimism and a fierce determination which made him to write the book three times, a perfect example for what a human will can drive the human body to endure and achieve should be adored. It’s a fact of life on the run that you often love more people than you trust, for the people in the safe world of course exactly the opposite is true.

The major portion of the book is his learning from solitary confinement for a period of four years. There's a kind of luck that's not much more than being in the right place at the right time, a kind of inspiration that's not much more than doing the right thing in the right way, and both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose and plan when you give yourself completely to the golden fate filled moment.

Life on the run puts a lie in the echo of every laugh and at least a little larceny in every act of love. The beauty and wonder of human being what it is to be!!!

All his life he'd been a fighter. He was always ready, too ready to fight for what he loved and against what he deplored. He avoided fighting until it came to him and then he enjoyed it.

After surviving the events dealt with in Shantaram he was captured in Germany in 1990 and eventually extradited to Australia. On completing his prison sentence he established a small multimedia company and is now a full time writer living in Melbourne.

If you reached here I appreciate your patience reading this and now to read the book you would require much more patience, its 950 pages. But if you get a chance to read I strongly recommend and there is something to be quoted in every page. Never mind if you are not an avid fiction reader, this story is being filmed casting Johny Depp, Amitabh Bachan and Emily Watson. But the book is a book and the film is a film—they are different art forms so the film will have an independent life.

Thanks to Deepu Chandran for referring and Prabodhini for lending me this Book.
Few links on the same topic: