Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shantaram -- Gregory David Roberts

The storyline: The novel is a part-fictionalized account of the author's (Gregory David Roberts) life. The prelude is told in just a couple paragraphs: Roberts is a robber and heroine addict-cum-smuggler, who escapes from a maximum security prison in Australia, flies away to New Zealand and then finally comes to Bombay. From then on, the book is the knock-out story of his life in Bombay.

His fascination with 'the Indian experience', his friendship with the funny-broken-english-speaking Prabhakar (whose mother gives Roberts the name Shantaram), his experiences in the Bombay mafia as the righthand-man and mentee to crime lord Kader Bhai, lots of crime, violence AND a love story :) is what the novel is about.
[The interesting thing about this Roberts guy is that not only is he a most-wanted criminal, he is a poet, a philosopher, a philanthropist and also a kind-of-doctor (yes, even in real-life)]

The narration: I was totally won over by the brilliant but uncomplicated writing ("... as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport"). Roberts is cleverly articulate and he weaves (as opposed to writes) scenes. Downside - if you are interested in just the plot, then you might find the wordiness a little overboard.

Roberts is totally fascinated by India and sees (and makes us see) beauty in all things Indian - things that are so innate to everyday life in India that we would typically brush it off as mundane.

My recommendation: Do try it.

[Warning: The book is a 950+ page tome :) and not always fast paced.]


  • Roberts plans to write a prequel (his pre-Bombay life) and a sequel to the book.
  • Mira Nair takes the director's seat for the screenplay adaptation of the book. The movie will star Johnny Depp as Shantaram and Amitabh Bachchan as a Kader Bhai.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Five Point Someone -- Chetan Bhagat

Have you ever bunked your classes to hang out in college canteen for a cup of tea and greasy samosas? Ever burned both ends of midnight candle mugging MEPA? Combined studies anyone????? 4 years of blissful ignorance, raging harmones, proxy attendance, ragging, GRE, Toefl, Uncertain future, suicidal tendencies and special hang-out spots - unless you are a caveman, i surely know ya'll miss these moments ( my case, substitute suicidal with psycho ). Well relish all these fav moments in this Laugh-Out-Lout riot involving 3 super loser IITians and their ridiculous attempts to scrape through 4 grueling years to score a five pointer. Written by Chetan Bhagat ( who himself was an IIT /IIM alumni ), this one will literally make you roll on the floor LOL. Buy it from amazon or you can borrow it from me for a cookie :)

Cuckold -- Kiran Nagarkar

An interesting take on history. If you are as much a stickler for the Maharajah times as I am, you might enjoy this one.

At the centre of Cuckold is the narrator, heir apparent of Mewar, who questions the codes, conventions and underlying assumptions of the feudal world of which he is a part, a world in which political and personal conduct are dictated by the values of courage, valour and courtesy; and death is preferable to dishonor.

Growing up reading the works of Kalki (Sivagamiyin Sabatham, Ponniyin selvan), I have always been interested and intrigued in the Rajathanthiram of those days -- the devious diplomacy and the double-thinking kings had to do to protect their kingdom and subjects. This book offers a lot on those lines, and also surprises me with the mathematics, physics, psychology and project management involved in such a play. Makes you wonder how India has progressed from extremely knowledgeable and wise kings to the ones we have today.

An excerpt:

Puraji Kika and I have divided our army of twenty-five thousand men (I've sent the rest home) into ten units of two thousand and five hundred each. Each encampment is self sufficient with its own courier service, stables and other amenities. The distance between any two camps is two or three miles. If there's an emergency or a sudden enemy attack, a dispatch rider can cover the distance within ten minutes on the outside. We change locations frequently, never more than a fortnight at any one place.

Brilliant. Not to mention the numerous stories intertwined in one. Look out for many familiar historical/mythological characters.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Goddess For Hire -- Sonia Singh

A charming biography of a re-incarnated goddess. Maya Mehra is a second generation American-Indian in the uber-yuppie, very open minded state of California. She is content being the spoilt brat of her parents -- the fact that both her parents are doctors cements her right to provide for the livelihood of Gucci, Versace and the likes. But the rich are not protected from the AuntiMania. Aunty Dimple and Aunty Gayatri (they deserve the most special mention of all her closely-related Aunties) along with Mummy and Daddy are very worried about her 'roaming about without a companion'.

Imagine the fate of the world when she discovers that she is the re-incarnation of Kali.

The book is a satirical (and funny) anecdote of Maya finding her true dharma and her Greg.

Look out for ticklers in the book

"Maya's sort of the family pet project." Nadia giggled. "We all keep waiting for her to grow up and find herself."

Not to be confused if you are looking for a book with a purpose. This is a total girl entertainer, no brains, and a mills-and-boonish story line.

Cheers you up during a Sunday afternoon cuppa.

Buy this book on

If you live in Seattle, you can also borrow it from the Seattle Public Library. (Thanks Sandeep for the link)

This blog is where...

... a group of friends exchange their book-ride experiences.