In the early 1980s, Gregory David Roberts, sentenced to a 19-year imprisonment for a series of armed robberies in Australia, escaped from Victoria’s Pentridge Prison and became one of Australia’s most wanted men for the next ten years. Shantaram is a novel influenced by the real events that follow his escape.
The book describes how the main character Lin lands in Bombay (now Mumbai), falls in love, befriends local artists and actors, and is recruited by the Mumbai underworld for various criminal operations. Ultimately, he spends time in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Prison and endures brutal physical and mental abuse. Lin eventually gets released with the help of the Afghan mafia don and begins to work for him. When the don is killed, Lin comes to the bitter realization that he has turned into a person he loathed and decides to build an honest life.
This debut novel is a must read. People who live or have ever lived in Mumbai will be able to relate to it a lot. Once you begin to read it, the ever so daunting 900+ pages will not bother you at all.