“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 a universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.“
When I read this opening stanza, I knew the book I was holding was anything but ordinary and that the journey forward would be an interesting one.
Shantaram is intoxicating and a ridiculously strong drink. A drink that has the audacity to go all the way down – to the deepest part of you, and from there, speak right back at you. A drink that not only teases you, but also helps you see “hope” in hopelessness, “possible” in impossible, and realize that you can rewrite destiny simply by making the right “choice.” I drank that drink – neat, unapologetically and non-stop for seven days. And this hangover, I must say, was beautiful and one of the best I ever had!
Shantaram turned out to be more than just a book. Along the way, it became my friend, my spiritual guide, even my alter ego! Shantaram is a heady concoction of love and heartbreak, friendship and animosity, acceptance and betrayal, fame and greed, chances and choices, blood and war, and a little bit of everything there is to life. So yes, it is a fat book, a whole of nine hundred and thirty three pages. And it is heavy not only by size but also by words and philosophies. However, not for once, I got hunched over by its weight or got tired of its excessive use of flowery language or wished it was a bit shorter. This potion has punch, style, complexity and flamboyance, and is a tall one, and quite frankly, is meant to be consumed just the way it has been prepared for you.
Shantaram is a true story of the author himself – Mr. Gregory David Roberts, a convicted felon and an escapist from an Australian prison, who spends ten years as a fugitive in Bombay. While in Bombay he gets hired by the underworld mafia and starts doing all the dirty work that’s a part of the deal. In the book, he describes in great details about how Bombay (now, Mumbai) literally adopts him and like a mother, opens her arms and takes him in her embrace. She also allows him to grow as a person, explore the self within, redeem the mistakes of his past, and give him an opportunity to meet some wonderful people who takes out the darkness in him and turns into divine light.
I highly recommended this book to you. Go, get drunk in this love – this love is not short time fun, believe me, it will run long and deep, and in the process, enrich your life will valuables lessons.
There are many fantastic quotes in the book, and here are some of my personal favorites.
Happiness is a myth. It was invented to make us buy new things.
The truth is a bully we all pretend to like.
A dream is the place where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and the fear are exactly the same, he said, we call the dream a nightmare.
The past reflects eternally between two mirrors – the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say.
Luck is what happens to you when fate gets tired of waiting.
The burden of happiness can only be relieved by the balm of suffering.
It’s isn’t a secret, unless keeping it hurts.
News tells you what people did. Gossip tells you how much they enjoyed it.