Sat 28 July 2018 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Looks can be deceptive. Very deceptive. When some villagers name the protagonist "Shantaram" after his calm nature, little idea did they have of his fierce past. Shantaram tries hard to melt into his surroundings and maintain a low-key but keeps getting into trouble.

Gregory David Roberts, the author, embellishes his life events to build the story. He escapes prison in Australia and flies to India under an assumed name (Lin) to lay low for a while before escaping to Europe. He meets an unreserved tourist guide, Prabhakar who becomes a dear friend. After a robbery, Lin loses all his money and relocates to a slum in Mumbai. During the course of his stay, he gets acquainted with a lot of foreigners, an underworld don - Abdel Khader Khan, being one of them. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he ends up in Arthur road prison where he faces abuse that almost leaves him dead before he is rescued by Khader Khan. Lin dedicates his life to the don and blindly follows him to Afghanistan to help the mujahideen liberate the country from the Soviets. This trip opens his eyes and he realises that he has become someone he loathes. He resolves to return and reset his life.

The novel is over 900 pages and protracted. There were many instances where I felt like dropping the book but carried on hoping for a satisfying experience at the end. While I didn't feel so after I was done, it wasn't lousy either.