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Book Review- Shantaram

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears.” 

Shantaram is one of my favourites now. If I make a list of top 10 favourite books, this will definitely feature in Top 5.

It is based in Mumbai city for most part of the plot and is an autobiography plus part fiction of life of the author Gregory David Roberts. Anything related to Mumbai anyways excites me. The city has a charm I can’t get over. I have stayed in Mumbai for a few years and If I ever have a chance, I would love to go back. Despite the crowd, the distance and the high cost of living, the warmth of the place makes you forget every pain!


I am not sure how much of it is true and how much is fiction. However the part set in Mumbai more or less seems like true incident. Entering a new city, experiencing village, slum, making friends, everything was so beautifully written. I can’t even count the number of “quotable lines” from this book. Some of them that I’ve mentioned below were amazing to read and feel.

The whole war part wasn’t very engrossing. Probably, I say so because it moved away from Mumbai. But the plot seemed very fabricated. Yet, I would say it was well written. For me, personally, how good an author is comes from how well he ends his books. The climax of Shantaram was just perfect for me.

The below lines have no spoilers whatsoever. If you’ve already read the book, this may bring back fond memories. If you haven’t, this probably will make you wanna read it.

1. Civilisation is defined by what we forbid, more than what we permit.

2. The only force more cynical and ruthless than the business of politics is the politics of big business.

3. When you judge the power that is in a person, you must judge their capacities as both friend and as enemy.

4. Some women are like that. Some loves are like that. Most loves are like that, from what I can see. Your heart starts to feel like an overcrowded lifeboat. You throw your pride out to keep it afloat , and your self respect and your independence. After a while you start throwing people out- your friends, everyone you used to know. And it’s still not enough. The lifeboat is still sinking, and you know it’s going to take you down with it.  I hVe seen it happen to a lot of girls here. I think that’s why I am sick of love.

5. Optimism is the first cousin of love and it’s exactly like love in three ways: it’s pushy, it has no real sense of humor and it turns up where you least expect it.

6. A dream is a place where wish and fear met. When the wish and the fear are exactly the same , he said, we call the dream a nightmare.

7. Poverty and pride are devoted blood brothers until one, always and inevitably , kills the other.

8. The burden of happiness can only be relieved by the balm of suffering.

9. When we are young, we ThNk that suffering is something that’s done to us. When we get older- when the steel door slams shut, in one way or another, we know that real suffering is measured by what’s taken away from us.

10. You are not a man until you give your love, truly and freely, to a child. And you are not a good man until you earn the love, truly an freely, of a child in return.

11. Nothing grieves more deeply or pathetically than one half of a great love that isn’t meant to be.

12. One of he ironies of courage, and the reason why we prize it so highly, is that we find it easier to be brave for someone else than we do for ourselves alone.

13. They were poor, tired, worried men, but they were Indian, and any Indian man will tell you that although love might not have been invented in India, it was certainly perfected there.

14. Fear dries a man’s mouth and hate strangles him. Thats why hate has no great literature: real hate and real fear have no words.

15. People haven’t stopped believing in love. They haven’t stopped wanting to be in love. They just don’t believe in happy ending anymore. They still believe in love, and falling in love, but they know now that…they know that romances almost never end as well as they begin.

16. It was just that all the hope had been so empty, so meaningless. And if you prove to a man how vain his hope is, how vain his hoping was, you kill the bright , believing part of him that wants to be loved.

17. In the face of all that is so wrong with the world, the very worst thing you can do is to survive. And yet you must survive. It is this dilemma that makes us believe and cling to the lie that we have a soul, and that there is a God who cares about its fate.And now you have it.

18.There’s a kind of luck that is not much more than being in the right place at the right time, a kind of inspiration that’s not much more than doing the right thing in the right way, and both really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate filled moment.

19. Justice is a judgement that is both fair and forgiving. Justice is not done until everyone is satisfied, even those who offend us and must be punished by us.  Justice is not the only way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we save them.

20. Are we ever justified in what we do? When we act, even with the best of intentions, when we interfere with the world, we always risk a new disaster that mightn’t be of our making, but that wouldn’t occur without our action. Some of the worst wrongs were caused by people who tried to change things.

21. It’s impossible to despise someone you honestly pity, and tu shun someone you truly love.

22. 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, of course, is that we won’t stop loving them, even after they’re dead and gone.

While there were many many more lines that I would love to share, but they are just so many and so long that I’m quite lazy to type. And honestly, I feel reading it in the entire context would make much more sense.

Shantaram is definitely a must read!