A post was long overdue.. Largely coz I was engrossed in one of man's biggest quests!!
I have done it.. I have done the unthinkable.. For years together engineers have dreaded reading any book thats fatter than 4 fingers put together.. Infact we love thin anorexic books, that explains why Jigar and Easy solutions(God bless Techmax Publications) were such a hit! How they included the whole syllabus in 27 pages max still leaves me dumbfounded!
So, as I was saying I have done the unimaginable! I have read "Shantaram".. For those who came late, Shantaram is a book by Gregory David Roberts. This is a fat ass book with over 930 pages.. Thats more pages than most engineering students read in an entire semester!!!
Would I recommend it? Well hell yeah!
So how many days did it take me to finish it off? 60 days!!! Did it actually take me 60 days? Well hell Yeah! It did! And the fact that I didnt read it for anymore than an hour each day didnt help :P
Its a dumb book for starters.. There are like 177 characters in the book and for the first 30 chapters, the story goes no where!! The book has like 42 chapters, thats more chapters than all of ApMech, Metallurgy, SOM, DOM put together!!
So how to read Shantaram with minimum effort?(You like tht, dont u?)
#1. Dont try and remember any names..There are like 57 Muslim names, 22 German, Swiss and German-Swiss names and like 84 Hindu names. Ofcourse there are Algerian and Iranian and Afghan names too..
#2. Dont worry if you dont remember the names, Roberts describes the facial contours of every guy who has a dialogue in the book. He goes like "I looked into the Amber gold eyes of the handsome Afghan" and you know hes talking bout Abdel Khader Khan.. And you can be sure Abdel khan is gonna blurt something out..
#3. Dont read the description of facial expressions.. Roberts has this extremely annoying habit of describing the facial expressions and the colour of the eyes and hair and such admists a dialogue.. By the time you finish reading it, and come to the dialogue, you forget what topic were the characters speaking about in the first place!!
He describes "Kalra", who plays his love interest, like 13 times in the 900 pages.. and he doesnt do it like normal men who are in love go, he goes "and her green eyes, like the green of the sea, her black hair like the black of the sky.." - sheesh!!
I mean, its okay, but 13 times!! 13 times?!!!!?
#4. Dont miss the fight scenes!! They are the only reason why I kept reading the book. Also the jail and the slums are well depicted(not tht I have been there :P)..
#5. Dont expect too much funny from Roberts, there are a few instances when he extracts a chuckle or two from you, but thats all you gonna get.. No feel good book this :P
#6. Dont take Roberts too seriously.. He boasts of learning the local language when he was in Bombay for 4 years.. He also claims that he knows marathi and farsi and half a dozen other Asian languages.
Well, his Marathi is nothing to write home about. He goes "Kay pahije tum?" when the right usage is "Kay pahije tumhala?"(What do you want?).. Now dont mistake me for a Shiv Sainik or anything, I am glad that a gora Australian is trying to speak my language... But honestly mate, had I stayed in France for 4 years, I would speak better french than Roberts speaks Marathi..
#7. Dont miss the war in Afghanistan..Loved the war scenes at the end..(I make it sound like a movie!)
#8. Dont expect a story.. Its not like the Godfather or any other book you have read for that matter.. Shantaram is a memoir and is written like one writes a diary. Ofcourse a lot of stuff is made up by Roberts.. If I have to categorise the book, I would call it semi-fiction.
#9. Dont expect sophistication from Roberts.. As it is, its a mafia novel.. But there are more F words in the first 100 pages of Shantaram than there are in the whole of Godfather. Whats more? There are assorted choicest of Indian gaalis, used by him. I would have loved to list some of them here, but this blog has a PG-13 rating, so cant do it mate!!
#10. Dont lose patience, there is a lot to learn from the book. Every 19 pages he comes up with something wise which lingers on in your memory..
Reading 19 pages for that one wise thought is cruel!! Its like those technical reference books(by foreign authors ofcourse!) you get from the college library, where you have to read 30 pages to get one formula!! (Ah..Those were the days!!)
I so wish Jigar and easy solution would join hands in a quest to bring us this wonderfully weird book in an anorexic form!
But I am still recommending it.. not as strongly as Pushkar, Aroop, Sandy or Madhuri had recommended it to me, but its definite read :)
Theres a lot to learn from the book just like there was a lot to learn from those foreign authors' reference books..
Now only if we could have Shantaram enrolled in 27 pages!!
Dedicated to Techmax Publishers.. A lot of us owe our degrees to you 10 Donts while reading Shantaram!
Editor in chief arshat chaudharyCurrent Issues: easy solutions, jigar, kalra, Lingo, roberts, shantaram, Techmax Publishers 13 letters to the editor Links to this post