“Exhilarating and intriguing” would be the best way to describe the novel Shantaram written by Gregory David Roberts. Published in 2003, this book is apparently partly based on the life of the author, who was an Australian convict who escaped from the “Pentridge Prison” and fled to India. Combining a mixture of “fact” with “fiction”, Shantaram is one of the most fascinating pieces of “literary fiction” on the city of Mumbai ever to be written. And so, here is presenting an analysis as to why this novel is such a great read and a cult classic.

a. The “plot” of Shantaram:

The plot of this book basically revolves around an Australian convict named Lindsay Ford who arrives in Mumbai armed with false passport.  It is on arrival that he is greeted by a smiling local named Prabaker, who eventually becomes his guide. Soon Lindsay is renamed as “Linbaba” by this smiling guide. He then travels to Prabaker’s village, and this is where he is renamed as “Shantaram”. Furthermore, interesting characters including a mysterious woman named Karla (Lin’s love interest) and Afghan underworld don Abdel Khader Khan are introduced into the narrative. In addition, the plot of this intriguing book captures the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai beautifully. Above all, this novel is based on the adventures of a fascinating character called Lin, and his love for a “City that never sleeps”.

b. The “writing” style of Shantaram:

“Extremely descriptive” would be the ideal way to describe the writing style used by the author. Combining stylish “vocabulary” and the “third person” narrative, Roberts gives the reader an extremely vivid picture of the “smell and sound” of the city of Mumbai, which is what makes it a real page turner. In addition, the mysterious Karla character used by the author is another reason why this novel is such as fascinating read.

c. The “Mumbai connection” to Shantaram:

“A painting of Mumbai through words” is a feeling one gets while reading this novel. Based on characters that reside in and around South Mumbai, the author manages to provide the true picture of Mumbai as seen by the human eye.  So be it the Colaba causeway, Leopold Café, or even the slums of Cuff Parade, Roberts has described it so wonderfully that the reader can literally smell the “streets” of Mumbai.

And so, having read this wonderful book myself I can confidently state that if, you intend to read a riveting fictional novel  based on the city of Mumbai then Shantaram is a must read.

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