The current paper describes the novel Shantaram written by Gregory David Roberts in 2003, in which the author writes about his life. The paper consists of the summary, critique, and application of the novel.
The main hero of the novel is an Australian young man named Lindsay Ford (Roberts’s fake name) who escapes from Australia to Bombay where he starts a new life full of adventures and bright impressions. He loses a connection with his previous life and finds new friends, a new job, sense to live, and spiritual enlightenment. The mother of Lin’s friend gives him a name Shantaram, which means a ‘peaceful man’. On the way to his enlightenment, the author goes through a variety of tests, including the USSR Afghan campaign, imprisonment in an Indian jail, famine, love to a strange woman, and communication with enlightened hermits. He finds and loses his friend, as well as being wounded several times. He earns his living being a mediator in illegal business, selling foreign currencies, gold, and fake passports. While living in slums, Lindsay provides medical care to residents. All this happens against the background of Indian reality. It is obvious that the author is in love with India as he carefully and thoroughly describes all details of its life, traditions, and people.
The Roberts’s main idea is that every person should live one’s life and do not give up. Moreover, it is important to stay a civilized human no matter what happens. Despite being a member of the local mafia, Lindsay has kept his humanity. Taking part in illegal business, he, nevertheless, is improving spiritually. For example, friendship is not just a word for him. The book is full of philosophic thoughts about life, values, and the meaning of existence. All these thoughts are combined with the author’s life, making him a better spiritual person. Despite being a criminal, Roberts includes more love in his novel than many other modern writers.
The first thing worth mentioning is that the author has taken a lot from his own life to describe the main character. Thus, the novel can be called autobiographical, which makes readers surprised after reading about all privations and hardships on the Lin’s way. Shantaram causes a lot of positive emotions, but the main one is love, which permeates the entire book. It is very pleasant to read how love and mutual understanding help people to fight poverty, mud, rainy seasons, rats, and harsh reality of Bombay slums. Another positive point is that the novel is realistically written and contains a lot of humor, interesting philosophical highlights, and extraordinary tact. The book makes readers want to visit India and feel it like the main character did. Hardly any tourist guide will tell visitors more about wonderful India than Shantaram. The author of the book has successfully combined several different genres: detective, novel, philosophy, and guide. Every reader will find something for oneself: romantic story, adventures, criminal story, and description of Indian life and real men’s friendship. One more benefit of the book is that Roberts writes a lot about India’s hidden life. He shows the part of the country, which regular visitors will never see. Readers also feel the reality of Lin’s life. Every his step looks believable, for example, description of fights when he acts like an average person.
The moment, which causes confusion and even internal protest, is the one when Lindsay goes to Afghanistan. On the one hand, it is surprising that such a clever person appears to support mujahidin. On the other hand, this part of the book gives an insight into how the war was seen by different people. Moreover, it clarifies a lot about the years that the author describes.
Weaknesses of the book include too long dialogs about politics, smugglers, and some other issues. At the end of the dialog, readers can forget its beginning. Moreover, it is slightly unpleasant to find obscene swearing and vulgar comparisons. The book will be difficult to read for people with good imagination and weak emotional strength as Roberts has included many negative details.
Every reader of Shantaram can find a unique application of this book in personal life. Every person can draw different issues from the book. First and foremost, Shantaram teaches about kindness and love. It helps to raise the spirit of a person. A good example for any reader is the main character Lindsay. Being a criminal, he is a highly spiritual man who lives according to the highest human principles of honor, dignity, and love to people and women. For Lindsay, these are not just lofty words, but concepts that he follows during his whole life without giving up, without looking back, and without turning off the chosen path. The main character is a good example of a real man who is brave and smart, but at the same time kind and loving. Every man should read this book in order to see behavior of Lindsay and make conclusions. This book teaches readers to remain a human being and a civilized person regardless of the situation in one’s life. The book also offers to be inquisitive and accept any experience with joy and gratitude.
Moreover, Shantaram gives a deep understanding of India, its people, their values, behavior, and traditions. The book shows Indian culture from the insight; thus, readers may have a full understanding of it and realize its differences from the Western culture. The book shows real contrasts within the country where kindness and smiles, dances and songs safely coexist with poverty, murder, and drug trafficking. Many people have superficial knowledge of India, which is based on TV programs and tourist guides. The book shows all deepest benefits and shortcomings of the country, which will be useful to anyone travelling there and wishing to experience the real culture and life.
Overall, Shantaram is an interesting and exciting book, which is mostly easy to read. It makes readers rethink their life and probably change it. The author shows that it is important to appreciate the reality, but it is also essential to struggle for something more. Here is what Roberts (2004) wrote: “Every day, when you're on the run, is the whole of your life. Every free minute is a short story with a happy ending” (p. 13). The author provides readers with good advice, which can improve and even save lives.