Shantaram – Hows It’s Giving Me New Eyes For India
Here I am in India soaking in all the sights sounds and smells. There’s never a dull moment here. In each moment there’s always something stirring, horns honking, and people on the streets selling food, trinkets, and clothes.
I started reading Shantaram on my way to LA but didn’t get very far. I’m kind of glad though now as I’m in India it’s definitely the best place to read it. If you haven’t read Shantaram then it’s a book you must read. A few friends told me about it some years ago and a close friend gave me a copy on my birthday but I’m so glad I didn’t start reading it until now.
The story is set in Mumbai and is about an Australian who escapes from prison and ends up in there and eventually ends up in the slums embroiled in the criminal underworld whilst also helping many people.
“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when its all you have got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”
– Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (The opening paragraph)
As soon as I read the opening paragraph the book just completely grabbed me. When I talk about the power of choice that pretty much sums up exactly what I’m talking about. I wish I could say that I always succeed in that endeavor but it’s the path I’ve chosen and the path that I believe in.
Through my failures comes a deeper understanding of that power to choose. It’s the power to forgive oneself during the failures that you gain and the power of forgive others. Then ultimately, you realize there is no such thing as failure and nothing to forgive.
The book goes into depth about the Indian people and culture and even though I’m Indian it’s given me a new way of looking at and a new understanding of the people and customs. The last time I came to India I was alone and wasn’t quite prepared for the challenges that faced me but now that book has become my companion and has given me the sense of preparation and excitement that I never felt before.
If you’re ever planning to go to India then Shantaram is the book that you must take to accompany you.