I recently wrote this piece about Indian words adopted into the English language, and it made me reminisce about my travels through India over the years with Justin. On our first trip together, I read this book. At nearly 1,000 pages it's a hellava tome, but the story itself is so huge and engaging that the pages turn fast.
"At a time when stories have never seemed more disposable, to find a narrative that merits all that time and paper feels -- in a word -- gratifying." Megan O'Grady, The New York Times.
Shantaram is narrated by the author's alter ego, Lin, an escaped convict with a fake passport who arrives in Mumbai to disappear. From the city's poorest slums, to Bollywood films, spiritual gurus, and opium dens, this roller-coaster story explores a plethora of intimate human experiences, while maintaining a deep love for India and all that the country represents.
The autobiographical nature of the book made it all the more fascinating to me. Lin's life experiences are oftentimes dark, violent, and morally dubious, but his search for love and meaning is palpable. I found myself completely invested in Lin's character, even though I can't imagine knowing someone like him in real life.
“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.” Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram.
I wanted to kick start this new monthly series with Shantarm, because the novel really does take you on such an incredible jourey. First published in 2003, if you haven't already read it, I think you'll be thrilled by the ride.
Have you read Shantaram, or another wild page-turner? I would love to hear more in the comments below!