Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shantaram - The Book

What do Richard Attenborough & Gregory David Roberts have in common?

Shantaram - a beautifully written book on Mumbai. The book, is not only just about mumbai. Its about the way author has felt about this city, seen it and has written about it in a manner that no Mumbaikar has ever come close to it. But for you to relate to it, you should have an exprience of Mumbai - the city of slums.

While reading the book, I could sense the love he has for this city, the city where he was not born, the city where he didn't grow-up, the city where he didnt get married or spend his early, better years of life. The way he has sketched each and every character, made me feel the characters were standing right next to me. I could feel the tears and laughter of every person in the book because somewhere in this city I have seen them. I could feel the evil side of the characters because every day I read about some of them in papers. I could feel the crowd, because I belong to the crowd of this city.

Before I read Shantaram, I always had a feeling of disgust for slums. For me they were unwanted people distroying the city and its beauty. While reading his book, I realised that even such in-human places have people living there, people who have a heart to love and a mind to dream. They came here to look for better opportunities, but then even I came for the same thing miles from my home town. Then they are no different than me. All the things that seperates me from them is too materialistic, like a posh office building with a/c, clothes bought with branded lables and a solid roof to sleep underneath each night.

He has written about the beauty of this city and tolerance of its people. Speaking about people of Mumbai, little piece from from his book - " They are not perfect, ofcourse. They know how to fight and lie and cheat each other and all the things that all of us do. But more than any other people in the world, the indians know to love one another. India is 6 times the size of France, but has almost 20 times the population. If there were a billion frenchmen living in such a crowded space, there would be rivers of blood. As everyone knows, french are the most civilised people in Europe. Without love, India would be IMPOSSIBLE!" . Isn't it so true. The floods in Mumbai on 26th July 2005, proved it, when compared to Cyclone Katrina which hit USA. There were people all around always ready with a helping hand. I myself was so shaken up during that period, but this city took me into its arms and I never felt alone.

Right from bumblebee(thats what Gregory called our mumbai taxis), to special mitha paan with loads of coconut( I still can't relate coconut to paan!!!), to village on the sky(this one is for who will read the novel), to the winds of sea filling every senses of your body, to the most beautiful sunsets of my life, to the rythme of the local trains while you are travelling in it, to the mad rush which you will find here 24 hours of the day, to the love which people here are always ready to shower...I simply love this city because of all this and lots more.

Well, coming back to the question in the first sentence, "What do Richard Attenborough & Gregory David Roberts have in common?". Well, as we can make out from their names, both are not by any chance of Indian origin but one has directed the much acclaimed and an Oscar winning film called Gandhi and the other wrote Shantaram. Don't get me wrong. I am not comparing Gandhi & Shantaram. They are very different. All, I want to say here is - How we need people from other countries and nationality to remind us that we should be proud to be an Indian. Irony of the situation, people who did justice to our culture, our country, our Mahatama Gandhi by writting about it, making a motion picture of it, were not among the billions of Indians, but were from some other country and another culture.