Most days can be fairly mundane and follow the normal routines of our every days lives. It’s not that there is anything wrong with that it is just how life is and often we are grateful that they happen like that as it means life is running as normal. However when a mundane day is struck by an unexpected gift it pulls it out of the mundane into a special day. So it was with me when I came home to a parcel with a book in it with a letter from a school friend. It was her favourite book and she wanted me to read it.
I can’t tell you how much this unexpected gift meant to me so much so that I found it hard to start the book if I am honest. I have a life long habit of being really touched by unexpected gifts or gifts for Birthdays and Christmase’s that are so right for me that I don’t use them.
I don’t know why it’s as if by using them the specialness goes away which of course it doesn’t. Recent years have made me realise that any gift has been given to be used in the here and now not treasured for a day that may or may not come. So after months of reading and re reading the letter and stroking the book I thought “Fiona Drane stop it and get reading.”
Shantaram is 933 pages of some of the best writing I have ever read. At first I was daunted by a book of this magnitude but by the end I was sad it was finished. The book is set in the 1980’s in Bombay. It is the true story of Gregory David Roberts who was an armed robber from Australia who escaped from prison and headed to India. It is the story of his time there which includes going back into drugs, living the high life, living the low life in the slums, finding himself, falling in love, going to prison and realising the true meaning of humanity.
I have never visited India and although I would love to the sheer size of the population for someone who can get claustrophobic daunts me if I am honest. But the more I have read of the country the more it fascinates me. This book again brings India to life. It’s corruption but how the whole country know how things work and abide by the rules however corrupt and senseless they seem. The increasing prosperity alongside the huge poverty. Man’s in humanity to man alongside our ability to live and love in communities. India’s love of cooking where no matter where you live cooking and food is the centre of the household. And most of all Indians ability to see the positive side of life even when all to a Western person would seem as bleak as it gets.
No one exemplifies this more than one of the lead characters Prabaker a poor man from the countryside who has come to Bombay to make a better life who be friends Gregory and awakens something in him dead for many years. I am going to finish this review with Gregory’s tribute to Prabaker which shows the beauty of the writing and also the sorrow of losing someone who in a year of loss I could relate to:
“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. For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker. I still love you. And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can’t give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep.”