By Caeri Dunnell
This is the kind of book that you want to tell everyone to read, even strangers in bookshops; the kind of book that you end up reading over and over until it ends up dog-eared and tattered on your shelf.Shantaram is the true story of author Gregory David Roberts, an Australian convict and heroin addict who escaped from prison in broad daylight during the 1980s. He ended up in Bombay where the saying goes; “Love may not have been invented in India, but it was perfected here”. Shantaram combines all genres: thriller, adventure and romance. It moves you to tears at times and, most of all, makes you think. The author ends up living in a Bombay slum, where the juxtaposition of extreme poverty with the pure beauty of the Indian people’s lives touches him deeply. He learns Hindi and Marathi, which delights and amuses the people he meets. He starts a free clinic, lands in prison for a time, joins the Indian mafia, acts in Bollywood and throughout the adventure is completely in love with the mysterious Swiss-American, Karla, whom he meets on the first page. The book is written so compellingly that you will almost be able to smell the jasmine, Indian spices and the stench of the slums described. It is about everything in the world. Love, humanity, forgiveness and suffering are just some of the themes he discusses with the people of the Bombay underworld, while smoking chillum or sitting sweating in taxis. Do yourself a favour and read this book; laugh at Prabraker’s broken English and wide grin, forget to breathe when the rats attack the slum, surreptitiously wipe away the tears and feel your heart swell with Roberts’ love for India and its characters.