Saturday, 21 September 2013

Adventures in Bombay, Contemporary Epics, review of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Curry.

I just went on another excursion outside of the YA and paranormal zones, and it was completely worth it.

I read the gigantic, extraordinary, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It's supposedly based on the extraordinary true life story of the author, and his adventures in India in the 80s. I was in India myself 6 months ago. To me it was all about the history, the wildlife, and the numbers of people. India hits you around the face with its population everywhere. This is the Victoria Terminal in Mumbai in a rare moment when there aren't - literally - millions of people there.

In Shantaram the lead character experiences or observes EVERY facet of Mumbai. Which is impressive. With a population of 20 million it's bigger than most countries. He describes life in slums, among gangsters, lepers, and film stars in depth. My Mumbai was mainly the tourist facet. The beautiful old Victorian buildings, the jungly trees, the huge eagles on the street, and the monkeys...

His book is also filled with mystery, and intensity. The mystery is cool, there's a couple of clever who-dunnits in the story. The intensity, though, can be a bit much. It might be just me. But there's much love and so much hate, and none of it makes sense, but it's enough to sign your life over to someone else, apparently...

The two biggest similarities between the book and my experience are lots of food and taxis. The cabs are replicas of British cars from the 1950s, with 'busy' signs tacked on the hood, that flip out like flags when the cab is busy. I've never seen such gigantic menus, lists of hundreds of amazing combinations of vegetables and cheese and multiple kinds of bread. When I was a kid I loved the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the fantasy world of Narnia, but Narnia actually resembles my suburban childhood more than the fantasy that is India.

If you want to get an in depth, exciting, dramatic over view of Bombay, then this is just the story for  you, and everything else in the book is worth it...

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