Shantaram: A Book about India in the Best Bollywood Traditions

Indian culture and traditions, mysteries and secrets, sorrow and joy – everything is interconnected in Shantaram.

Last updated: January 29, 2024

Books about India - Roads and Destinations
The book Shantaram – a book about India in the best Bollywood traditions

Shantaram: A Must-Read Book about India

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts… It’s a massive work, nearly 1,000 pages. It’s one of those books that make you think and dream about it, use every free minute to read it. A book that lifts curtain behind dark doors of Indian slums and invites you into Indian restaurants frequented by expats who flock to Bombay for different reasons, but stay there permanently.

Published in 2003, the novel received excellent reviews from The Wall Street Journal, People, The New York Times, and many others. It captivated minds and hearts of millions. Even Oprah Winfrey couldn’t pass on an opportunity to meet the author of Shantaram during her visit to Mumbai in 2012.

It took Gregory David Roberts thirteen years to write Shantaram. The book is considered a novel as not all details in it can be verified. Nevertheless, a huge part of Shantaram is based on the life of the author.

Read more: 10 Books to Read before Traveling to India: Culture, History, Fiction

Who is Shantaram

Shantaram is the name of the main character. Nor real name, but the one he was granted in one of the villages in India. His birth name, as the protagonist claims, is Lin or Linbaba. Turns out neither of these names are real. The young man is hiding his true identity.

Born in Australia, Lin goes through divorce, loses custody of his daughter, and becomes a heroin addict. Driven by his drug addiction, he commits a series of armed robberies and ends up in Australian prison. It’s one of the lowest points in Lin’s life. Not willing to endure ongoing tortures in the jail, he escapes and travels to Bombay, India.

Life in Bombay

In India, Lin’s life takes an unexpected turn. On his first day in the country, the future Shantaram meets an Indian guide named Prabaker. The two quickly become good friend. Slowly the newcomer builds friendships with other expats, falls in love, loses all his money, and is forced to live in the slums of Bombay where he establishes free medical clinic for slum-dwellers.

For outsiders, this phase of Shantaram’s life looks insane. Yet it teaches the main character the most valuable lessons. Shantaram finds true meaning of happiness, love, and generosity. Through his protagonist, Gregory David Roberts states that love was not invented in India, but it certainly was perfected here.

Eventually the struggles in the slum fade in comparison with other adversities that Shantaram faces in Bombay. As fate would have it, the young man is back in prison. Later he lives through betrayal, loss of his best friends, and deadly games of one of the most powerful mafias in the city.

Read more: 15 Travel Books that Will Spark Your Wanderlust

Shantaram - Roads and Destinations
Shantaram is one of the best books to read about India

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