About the Author
• Born in Australia in June 1952.
• Became addicted to heroine, and robbed
stores with a toy pistol to fund his addiction.
(“The gentleman bandit”)
• Caught in 1978 and sentenced to 19 years
imprisonment in a maximum security prison.
• Escaped from prison in June 1980, fled to
New Zealand. His life on the run eventually
led him to Mumbai, India where he spent
the next 10 years of his life living with a fake
• Caught in Frankfurt in 1990 for smuggling
Heroin, and extradited to Australia. Roberts
spent the next 6 years in jail where he wrote
his first novel, Shantaram.
About the book
Shantaram is chornologically the second book of
a trilogy. According to the author, the defining
theme of the century in which he grew up was
alienation (from myths such as religious beliefs,
the “just war theory”, imperialism etc.)
The three components of alienation that Roberts
chose to focus on:
1. Conflict
2. Exile
3. The search for meaning
The plot
A first person narrative (chosen specifically in order not to violate the truth law)
The plot works in and through a chain of betrayals (emblematic of the exile
experience), and the unfolding revelations of motive for those betrayals.
The plot also revolves around engagement (which is emblematic of the escape
from the exile experience) as a resolution of the conflicts thrown up by the
Protagonist (Lin) arrives in Bombay -> chooses to stay in the city -> meets
Prabhakar -> Goes to Prabhaker’s native village Sunder-> christened as
“Shantaram” – a man of peace by Prabhaker’s mother -> robbed of all
possessions on the way back from village -> forced to live in a slum in Bombay
because of poverty -> sets up a free health clinic in the slum -> adapts to the
community he is living in and even learns Marathi -> falls in love with Karla ->
becomes involved with the local mafia -> thrown in Arthur road jail without
reason -> tortured -> released due to the influence of the mafia -> goes to
Afghanistan to help the Mujahideen -> upon his return, realizes he’s become
everything he used to loathe -> decides to build an honest life.
Shantaram’s central theme - Exile
The image of the “island” - the saint’s tomb on the island shrine at Haji Ali,
Leopold’s Beer Bar (read how many times the bar is referred to as “an island”),
the village huts, the construction towers in the centre of Prabaker’s slum,
Khaderbhai’s house, the Nabila Mosque, Madame Zhou’s Palace, Gupta-ji’s den,
Arthur Road Prison, the Chinese-gothic Mandarin Hotel in Mauritius, the
counting room building in the Fort Area, Abdul Ghani’s mansion, and many
others. The colours of the novel are green and gold.
None of the characters – with the exception of Johnny Cigar, who is born to a
vanished (exiled) father from somewhere beyond the city – is born in Bombay.
All of the characters are exiles, in one way or another. Prabaker is an exile from
his village, Karla is an exile from the Unites States of America, Abdel Khader is an
exile from Afghanistan, Abdullah is an exile from Iran, Khaled is an exile from
Palestine, Didier is an exile from France, the slum dwellers are exiles from many
other parts of India, and on it goes. The exiled state of the book’s central
characters is placed in sharper relief with the description of Prabhaker’s native
village – where everyone knows precisely where they come from and where
they belong.
Is Shantaram an autobiography?
“With respect, Shantaram is not an autobiography, it’s a novel. If the book reads like
an autobiography, I take that as a very high compliment, because I structured the
created narrative to read like fiction but feel like fact. I wanted the novel to have the
page-turning drive of a work of fiction but to be informed by such a powerful stream
of real experience that it had the authentic feel of fact.”
“All of the characters in the novel, Shantaram, are created. None of the characters
bears even a remote resemblance to any real person I’ve ever known.“
•Six months in remote Maharashtrian village, learn to speak Marathi language
•Live in Bombay slum, establish and operate free clinic for slum dwellers
•Imprisoned in India for 4 months
•Recruited by Bombay mafia, training in currency crime, gold smuggling, passports
•Gunrunning operation to unit of mujaheddin fighters in Afghanistan
•Wounded in action, evacuated to Pakistan, recover and return to Bombay
•Appointed controller mafia forgery unit, write short stories, published in popular
•Passport smuggler to Nigeria, Zaire, Iraq, Iran, Mauritius, Sri Lanka
•Establish casting agency for foreign extras in Bollywood movies, act in movies
Thank you.
Ashish Thakur (06010110)
Nitin Kumar Gupta (06010135)
Siddhartha Trivedi (06010242)
Partha Sarkar (06010435)
Shivdeep Gaagat (06010735)
Saumya Sen (06010743)
Kamal Kumar(06010424)

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