So claims Karla, a character in the novel Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts.
Before I say anything more, I would like to make it clear that this is NOT a review of the book. I am not good at writing reviews esp not when I am emotionally tied to the book.
From the first chapter when we meet Prabhaker, the Bombay guide with a really BIG smile, to the last chapter when Lin falls at the feet of Kishan, Prabhaker's dad, the book is riveting. There is no turning back on this journey. Nowhere do you find Lin glossing over the faults of India or poking holes at its many-layered culture because that's not how we work. Behind our need to know what is cooking in AptC and whose daughter is married to whom, there is an undercurrent of love and belonging which is evident in this narrative.
And that is why I love the book. The author and the protagonist surrender to the phenomenon that is India and there is no other way to live in our country. Yes we have our faults, yes we are hypocritical at times, we fight, lie, steal, kill and walk aloof when someone suffers but we also know to love, treasure the simple things in life and smile...smile even when we have no clue where our next meal is going to come from.
The book made me so homesick, I just wanted to run home immediately. Who cares about dishwashers, online bills, Survivor or Dunkin Donuts when I can visit Amma for hot cup of coffee, take an auto to roam the entire city?
One needs to be crushed in a busy train compartment to savour the breath of fresh air as you step outside; one yearns for the flowerseller's smile as she sells you jasmine strands and tells you to grow your hair longer; one longs to see the shopkeeper smile with his teeth clenched when you drive a hard bargain for a bunch of coriander.
Yes I miss all those quirks coz that's what made it home, a place where you grumble the most and are treated the best. I love Shantaram coz he brought the crowd - the smells, the noise, the songs and dance of an Indian life- into my living room in a country where I will always be an outsider.
Sometimes, one needs to be lost in a crowd to feel oneself.P.S: Apparently Johnny Depp is gonna play Shantaram. Please, pwetty please if anyone knows anyone who knows someone working on that film, can you recommend me for a role? Even the role of Radha, Lin's neighbour in the slum who dies of cholera is more than enough. Please :)