Review of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts


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I don't often read books twice. Not (just) because I have particuarly high standards, but because I am both blessed and cursed with in the word's of another: “an elephantine memory". Not so much for detail, but for the order and substance of experience. I have an ongoing internal chronologue of what happened when, why it happened, and more importantly how I felt about it.

More so in the past than in the now—a tangible blessing of my ongoing practise of meditation—is the ever more vivid emergence of the eternal now, the light of which obscures in increasing brightness the shadows of the forgettable then. In this respect I am more than cheerfully losing my mind!

With regard to books, for this is in fact a book review, I remember the reading experience too well to cheapen the author's work by reliving their tale less than whole-heartedly at a premature date. *Shantaram*, however, by Gregory David Roberts, I would quite happily read twice and then again if but time did permit.

*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. *

Shantaram is the autobiographical novel of the author's real life journey from bank robber and addict to prisoner and then fugitive, from Australia to India, and from only an actor in his own life to its’ playwright and author.

*Truth is the bully we all pretend to like. *

Beginning with armed robbery and Australian prison to the slums of Bombay and it's mafia wars; from battlefield gun-running to the fabulously surreal filmsets of Bollywood, the 933 pages of this book take place on a scale of experience vaster than just larger than life, and I am certain for some quite beyond belief.

I personally found no reason to doubt the author's probity. To me it mattered not whether this book is verifiable fact. Even if it were only three quarters true, it is a tale of heart and not of fact, of life lived and felt rather than observed and described.

*Sometimes, you have to surrender before you win. *

A journey of several continents and more than ten years, it is really the story of intuition followed and dharma learnt. A man near lost in a maelstrom of his own making accepts the guidance of fate's unseen hand and the certitude of the whisper within to find redemption and spiritual growth.

As chief protagonist as well as author, Gregory David Roberts is a warrior-poet of the modern age, a man familiar with the path of violence but adhering strictly to the code of honour and right, all the while recording on paper his thoughts and experiences for retelling at a later date.

*There is no heart like the Indian heart. It's the heart that keeps us all together. *

Shantaram is a journey on two levels. Literally it is a journey to the heart of India, the land where in the author's words “the heart is king". Personally it is a journey of the heart through experience, from “Mr. Lindsay" of passport stolen to the affectionately nicknamed “Linbaba", and finally to the name “Shantaram" (man of God's peace)—the name given to the author by his adopted Indian family. It is a journey of who he was in his own eyes, has now become in the eyes’ of others, to who he himself seeks to be.

John Gillespie is a designer, web developer and video editor who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. A member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, he uses his practice of meditation as a source of energy and inspiration for his many creative activities. Amongst other activities he produces podcasts for Sri Chinmoy TV


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