Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm reading! - Shantaram

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts wasn't on my summer reading list. In fact, I've had the book for about a year and had already read it once. The thing is - I ordered a couple of my reading list books from Amazon and started getting antsy because I had nothing to read! I remembered that I had loved Shantaram the first time I read it, but couldn't remember much of the story. So, of course, I had to reread it.

Shantaram is loosely based on the writer's life. In a nutshell, it is the story of a man that escapes from a high-security prison in Australia and flees to Bombay, India - where he does everything from establish a free clinic in the slums to work for the Bombay mafia. Everything that happens in the novel is so incredible, that it's hard to believe most of it actually happened.

The most interesting part, however, is the city. He does such a wonderful job describing the beauty and culture of Mumbai that you can't help but want to see it for yourself. One of my best friends in university was from Mumbai. She invited me several times to visit her "for a couple of months". I loved the idea, but my broke college student budget did not let me afford the plane tickets and a couple of months without working. Looking back, though, I really should have made the effort. It was a great opportunity: spend several months living in India. Does that sound wonderful? I also really should have learned the language. I  picked up the Hindi accent from spending time with my friends, but didn't learn more than some random expressions and terms. In fact, she asked me that once: why, in all the years that we spent so much time together, I never learned Hindi. The truth it, I hadn't thought about it - I was busy trying to learn Italian. Oh well! Everything happens for a reason, no? Maybe I'll get another opportunity to visit India and learn the language.

Back to the book... it made me laugh; it made me cry (a lot); it had me biting my nails with anxiety. The only part that I didn't like was a brief stint to Afghanistan, but everything else was great. The characters are so vibrant and complex that you can't help but wonder if they weren't all real. My favorite characters were an Indian tour guide and an Iranian assassin (I had a little character crush on the Iranian assassin actually).  The novel is long. It's not a quick read by any means, but it is a beautiful story. You should read it!

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