Friday, December 09, 2011

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This story is incredible. What's even more incredible about it is that is true. Roberts is a fantastic writer. The novel is about him - he is an escaped convict from Australia and somehow ends up in India. When his visa expires, he lives in a Mumbai slum establishing a free medical clinic and then gets entrenched in the Mumbai underworld.

Roberts writes beautifully but there is one quote that I want to share (more can be found here).
"At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread instead is that we won't stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone."
There are very few people in the world I trust and love unconditionally. At many points in this book, I actually cried. To be loved wholeheartedly is a blessing.

Lin (Robert's adopted name in the book) goes to his friend's Prabahakar's village and meets his family. He is so overwhelmed with how welcoming they are and how they don't question anything about his past. I have never had that experience. I generally get bombarded with questions on all the things that stress me out like education (took the long route), work (job hunting fun times), marriage, etc. I finally reached a good point on all of those but the constant barraging always appeared like they didn't have faith in me. I wanted one person to just say I know you will figure it out even though it might not seem like it. South Asian people generally treat guests way better than their own family.

It doesn't matter where you live or what you do, when you feel like part of a community it makes all the difference. Lin lives in the slum and he becomes part of its diverse family. For once, he feels like he belongs. How much each neighbor cares for each other is quite amazing.  I suppose when you are working towards a common goal of satisfying one's basic needs of food and shelter all the other differences like caste or religion don't seem important.  When the basic needs are fulfilled however, humans tend to find other things that separate each other...

This book is definitely worth the read.