I am yet to decide on a favourite book. There are many that I have liked but none that would be the best ever. The list started with Not without my daughter (Betty Mahmoody) and went on to add City of Djinns (William Dalrymple), Harry Potter Series (esp the last one), Da Vinci Code and many others. A key member of this prized collection is “Shantaram” by Gregory Roberts. Shantaram was a revelation. Not only because of the story (which in itself has more twists and turns than any fiction ever written), but also because of the characterization, the flair of writing and the vivid memory of the author.
I don’t believe that a movie (played by Johhny Depp) can do justice to such a brilliant book. Thankfully, the movie is on hold now and there’s not much talk of it.
Shantaram has had such a brilliantly colored life that it makes an engrossing read. In his book, he exposes the Mumbai underworld, the terrorist activities in some countries, flesh trade, sex workers etc. One of my favourite sections is when he lives in the slums for more than a year and learns their ways and mannerisms going on to become the slum doctor. His flair for writing coupled with his photographic memory makes this book as vivid and imaginative as a Harry Potter novel (well, almost). As you walk this road with him and see him evolve from the convict that he was to a slum doctor, a mafia member and eventually one who wants to come clean, you can not help but applaud him. It is not that he always did good things, but the humility with which he accepts it and moves on, talks of a man with character.
Shantaram paid his dues in the prisons and is back in India. He is settled in Mumbai and it is not uncommon to see this tall burly man with his blond hair in a long ponytail riding his bike in Colaba or having a beer at Leopold with his wife (a Swiss Princess). He has recently been seeing back at his favourite haunt Leopold to show solidarity with the city.
If you get the chance, do get your hands on the book. It’s a great read.