Halfway through 2018, one of my friends introduced me to Shantaram. He insisted it was “the best book ever”, a statement I casually shrugged off. Luckily, Kart was so obsessed at it that he actually insisted on me borrowing the book. It was more than 900 pages long and as I looked at it for the first time, I wondered if I’d ever even take on the challenge. Maybe I’ll keep it for awhile, that would rightfully be courteous.
Six months later, I am a completely changed person. Shantaram was indeed one of the best books I’ve ever read! I only took to reading it in bed, usually before I slept. It was engaging from the moment I opened til the moment I closed it – a feat rarely achieved by lengthy novels. Even my dad, who I had prodded to read the book as well, relented that it was indeed good – “no wonder you want to go to India”. And this comes from the leading person who is disagreeable with my impending trip back to India. As with most books I read, I usually note down the lines that strike me the most. I have a lot more from Shantaram, but I handpicked a few of my favorites that I’d like to remember at different points of my life:
During times of hopelessness
I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them…freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.
When I start seeing people only for what I can gain
The little victories haggled from him by foreign tourists costs Anand his daily bread, and cost them the chance to know him as a friend.
When I hide behind wisdom as an excuse for inaction
That’s not wise, Lin. I think wisdom is very overrated. Wisdom is just cleverness, with all the guts kicked out of it.
When I wonder whether I truly want something and all the suffering that comes with it
Hungry, for anything, means suffering. Not hungry for something means not suffering.
When I crave for words yet actions speak for themselves
His handshake was the kind that good friends sometimes use in place of a whole conversation.
When I think hardening my heart is the only key to survival
If you make your heart into a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself.
When I’m sad and I don’t think I can make anything out of that sadness
There are many animals that can express their happiness, but only the human animal has the genius to express a magnificent sadness.
When I doubt the good in people
One of the worst of many failings, in those exile years, was my blindness to the good in people. I never knew how much goodness there was in a man or a woman until I owed them more than I could repay.
Shantaram was written by Gregory David Roberts