02 January 2010


I recently read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. After a long, long time, this was a book that had me licking for more from Page 1.

I have often thought that when you meet the work of a true artist, you get the feeling that he/she knows you, knows something about you that can make you smile or cry a tear. They know something about you that you never bothered to discover. I got this feeling when I read Shantaram.

Roberts writes of a love so intense that everyone can’t know or comprehend and makes one wary of the pain that must invariably accompany such searing love. He writes of the human heart’s incredible ability to hope and the will to fight through impossible circumstances.

Yes, at times, the book flows rather too well, events in the book are too much in harmony with each other. For instance, Ulla appears with movie-like precision in the plot. Perhaps, this was intentional to make it look more like a work of fiction, something made up, and not autobiographical.

The way he puts words to feelings caught my breath. Simply brilliant. My copy of the book is marked up in so many places for the words I loved, like, “But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn’t wise,” or, “a prairie of longing”.

All the things that matter in life – love, friendship, integrity, and even death – Roberts’s involvement with each is touching. I loved this book for being so unabashed about its sentimentality, even as it takes us through the lanes of organized crime in Mumbai. So much in the book is so incredible like Roberts’s escape from the high-security prison in the middle of the day. I have not read a book that’s as compelling as this and is yet a literary masterpiece at the same time. Nothing could match up to the pulse of this book. And all, written in a way to make you pause and look up and think for a long time.

I can’t wait to watch the movie, what with Johnny Depp and all. But it can never be better than the book, of course.


Debby said...

I recommend you see The Shawshank Redemption... If you have not yet :-)

It's a jail story but mysterious in some ways. The theme is about hope thought at first glance it seems like just another gangster film. And happy new year! Cheers Debby

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Yes, Debbie. I've seen that. Yes, mysterious and wonderful :) It could easily have been just another movie, but the ending changes the movie.

Mumbai Paused said...

Shantaram gives us a rather masala view of the late 70s/80s Mumbai.

Maximum City does the same for the late 90s and early 00.

Wonder what will be the Mumbai book for this day and age.

Vijayalaxmi Hegde said...

Oh, it's you Slogan! I didnt know you had a Mumbai photo blog, too. Wonderful.

I loved Maximum City.

The Mumbai of this day and age, hmm, that will take some time shaping up.

mumbai paused said...

yup. I'm in Mumbai these days. So I'm clicking Mumbai streets.