Shantaram- why I love this book  

It is a very bulky book 900+ pages. I am in the middle of it and what is amazing is the sprinkling of quotations throughout the book by characters. Besides these great quotes there are many reasons why I like this book.

1. The number one reason as mention above is th wonderful collection of quotations which are present throughout.
2. Gregory David Roberts (GDR) is a nice human being and it is felt strongly everywhere.
3. He likes Mumbai and India-anything and everything Indian, which is very strange coming from a westerner.
4. I never knew such an underworld exists in Mumbai with their own rules and players and lives of thousand slum dwellers.
5. His love for Karla is really amazing- so strong yet so fresh.
6. This is a real life story of a bank robber and the positive transformation that took place inspite of so much violence.

The photo below was taken during his visit to Leopold cafe, one of the places where terrorists attacked on that dreadful night of 26.11.08. GDR visited this cafe on December 10th.

Gregory David Roberts (GDR) with his wife at Leopold cafe Mumbai after the terror attack.

56 great quotes from Shantaram.
I am presently reading Shantaram by .

Gregory David Roberts (GDR)

Here are a few quotes from Shantaram . Enjoy reading them.


Whenever I was alone I wrote…, writing was one thing that saved me the discipline, and abstraction of putting my life into words, every day, helped me to cope with shame and its first cousin despair.

There is a truth that is deeper than experience. It is beyond what we see, or even what we feel. It is an order of truth that separates the profound from the merely clever, and the reality from the perception. We are helpless, usually, in the face of it; and the cost of knowing it, like the cost of knowing love, is sometimes greater than any heart would willingly pay. It does not always help to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world. And the only way to know the truth is to share it, from heart to heart.

Suffering of every kind is always a matter of what we have lost. When we were young, we think that suffering is something that is done to us. When we get older – when the steel doors slam shut, in one way or other- we know that real suffering is measured by what is taken away from us.

Every act of suffering, no matter how small or how agonizingly great, is a test of love in some way. Most of the time, the suffering is also a test of our love for God.


Khaderbhai once said every virtuous act is inspired by a dark secret. It was true enough about me. The little good I have done in the world has always dragged behind a shadow of dark inspiration. I know in the long run motive matters more with the good deeds than it does with the bad.

When all the guilt and shame for the bad we have done have run their course, it is the good we did that can save us. But then , when salvation speaks, the secrets we kept , and the motives we concealed , creep from their shadows. They cling to us, those dark motives for our good deeds. Redemption’s climb is steepest if the good we did is soiled with secret shame.

We can deny the past, but we cannot escape its torment because the past is a speaking shadow that keeps pace with the truth of what we are, step for step , until we die.

That fighting to save a life is better and more enduring reason than fighting to end one.

I have developed a style in dealing with them that won their trust quickly. The style was – Two parts showman, two parts flatterer and one part philanderer, combined with a hint of mischief, a sniff of condescension and a pinch of contempt.


She said I was interested in everything and committed to nothing.


The Red queen contest---I learnt it in the slums. The hosts – our bodies – and the viruses – any bug that makes us sick- are locked in a contest with each other. When the parasite attacks, the host develops a defense. Then the virus changesto beat that defense, so the host gets a new defense. And that keeps on going. They call it a Red Queen Contest. It is from the story Alice in the wonderland.

Alice never meets the Red Queen who runs incredibly fast but never seems to get anywhere. She tells Alice , in her country it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.


The word Mafia comes from the Sicilian word for bragging. If you ask any serious man who commits serious crimes for a living, he will tell you it is just that—the boasting, the pride—that gets most of the criminals in the end. But they never learn. May be it is not possible to break law without boasting about it to someone. May be it is not possible to be an outlaw without being proud in someway.


It is funny; the heroes come in only three kinds—dead, damaged or dubious.


This is what we do. Put one-step forward then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequences to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave heart into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.


When you judge the power that a person has, you must judge his capacities as both friend and as enemy


It is good to know what is wrong with the world. But it is just as important to know that sometimes, no matter how wrong it is, you cannot change it. And a lot of the bad stuff in the world was not really that bad until some one tried to change it.

One of the reasons why we crave love and seek it so desperately is that love is the only thing cure for loneliness, shame and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about you are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you.


If fate does not make you laugh then you just do not get the joke.

People always hurt us with their trust. The surest way to hurt someone you like is to put all your trust in him or her.

Mistakes are like bad loves, the more you learn from them the more you wish they had never happened.

Depression always happens to people who do not know how to be sad.

Men reveal what they think when they look away and what they feel when they hesitate. With women, it is the other way around.

I do not know what frightens me more,
The power that crushes us
Or our endless ability to endure it.

To make sure none followed us where you led
I used my hair to cover our tracks.
Sun set on my island of our bed
Night rose
Eating echoes
And we were beached here, in tangles of flicker,
Candles whispering at our driftwood backs.
Your eyes above me
Afraid of the promises I might keep
Regretting the truth we did say
Less than the lie we didn’t,
I went in deep, I went in deep,
To fight the past for you.
Now we both know
Sorrows are the seeds of loving.
Now we both know I will live and
I will die for this love.


Indians are the Italians of Asia . It can also be said Italians are Indians of Europe .

There is so much Italian in Indians, and so much Indian in Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a Goddess, even if the religion does not provide one. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy; and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop corner .For them food is music inside the body and music is food inside the heart. The language of India and the language Italy , they make every man a poet and make something beautiful from every banalite. These are nations where love –amore, pyaar- makes a cavalier of a Borsalino on a street corner, and makes a princess of a peasant girl , if only for the second that her eyes meet yours .

For many the duplication of their own images in two or more mirrors at the same time was not the least among of the past time.

They say in Marseilles , a man in no hurry gets nowhere fast. I have been in no hurry for the past eight years.

Civilization, after all, is defined by what we forbid, more than by what we permit


The worst thing about corruption as a system of governance is that it works so well.

Friendship is something that gets harder to understand as the years pass. Friendship is like a kind of algebra test that nobody passes.


The truth is a bully we all pretend to like.

Do you know the story of the scorpion and the frog? The frog agrees to to carry the scorpion across the river, because the scorpion promises not to sting him.

Then the scorpion stings the frog, half way across the river. The drowning frog asks him why he did it, when they both drown, and the scorpion says that he is a scorpion , and it is his nature to sting.

The test of a real Borsalino hat is to roll it into a very tight tube and pass it through a wedding ring. If it emerges from this test without permanent creases, and if it springs back to its original shape, and if it is not damaged in the experience, then it is a genuine Borsalino

French culture is so pervasive and influential that almost every one in the whole world is at least a little French. This is specially so for women. Almost every woman in the world is French, in some way.

Every city in the world has a village in its heart. You will never understand the city unless you first understand the village


Dream is a place where wish and fear meet. When the wish and fear are the same then we call that dream a nightmare.


There are many animals that can express their happiness; but only the human animal has the genius to express a magnificent sadness. And for me it is some thing special, a daily meditation. Sadness is my one and only art.


No political philosophy I ever heard of loves the human race as much as Anarchism. Every other way of looking at the world says that people have to be controlled and ordered around and governed. Only Anarchism trusts the human being enough to let him work it out for himself.


Love cannot be tested. Honesty can be tested, and loyalty too. There is no test for Love. Love goes on forever, once it begins, even if we come to hate the one we love. Love goes on forever because Love is born in the part of us that does not die.


Assassin grief, the kind of grief that lies in wait and attacks from ambush, with no warning and no mercy.

Justice is judgment that is both fair and forgiving. Justice is not done until everyone is satisfied, even those who offend us. Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong but is also the way we try to save them.


The truth is there are no good men or bad men. The deeds have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds and bad deeds. Men are just men- it is what they do or refuse to do that link them to good or evil.

The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of any one- the noblest man alive or the most wicked –has the whole purpose, process, and meaning of life within the lotus folds of its passion. Thee truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy and every particle of matter in the universe is moving.

Wherever you go in the world , in any society , it is always the same when it comes to the question of justice; we concentrate our laws , investigations , prosecutions and punishments on how much crime is in sin , rather than how much sin is in the crime.

Suffering is the way we test our love, especially the love for God.

Every act of suffering, no matter how small or how agonizingly great, is a test of love in some way. Most of the time, the suffering is also a test of our love for God.

Pain and suffering are connected but they are not the same. Pain can exist without suffering. It is also possible to suffer without pain.

Suffering is exactly like happiness, but perhaps backwards. One is like the mirror image of the other. Each has no meaning or does not exist without the other.

We human beings are the most complex arrangement of matter that we know of , but we are not the last achievement of the universe . We, too, will develop and change with the rest of the universe. But if we kill indiscriminately, we will not get there. We will wipe out our species, and all the development that has led to us across millions of years- billions of years-will be lost. The same can be said for stealing. What would happen if every one stole every other one? Would that help?

Bertrand Russell once said that, “Anything that can be put in a nut shell should remain there.” I do agree with him.


The word “Characteristic” in English has an amazing sound- like the rapping on the drum or breaking kindling wood for fire.

Every atom in the universe has the characteristic of life. The more complex way the atoms are put together, the more complex is the expression of characteristic of life. A rock is a very simple arrangement of atoms, so the life in a rock is so simple that we cannot see it. A cat is a more complex arrangement of atoms, so the life in a cat is more obvious. But life is there in everything even in a rock and even when we cannot see it.


This is a test. Every Guru, every wise man you meet must answer these two questions for you:

What is an objective, universally acceptable definition of good and evil?
What is the relationship between consciousness and matter?

Sometimes it is necessary to do a wrong thing for a right reason. The important thing is to be sure that our reasons are right, and we admit the wrong-- that we do not lie to ourselves, and convince ourselves that we did was right.


Universe is a process of struggle between opposites- light and darkness , hot and cold , suffering pleasure , good and evil – and that nothing can exist without the existence of its opposite.

Suffering is a condition of the unenlightened soul, locked within the wheel of karma.


The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid ones and a hundred million cowards.

Visit again, I will post more quotes here.

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  • Anonymous  
    January 31, 2009 at 8:24 AM


  • Safia  
    May 4, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    I'm so happy to see more people discovering and falling in love with this book.
    Hopefully, they'll finish the movie soon so that even more people will be changed for the better because of Shantaram.
    Enjoy! :~)

  • Mugdha  
    July 21, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    Great work..!!!

    Even i m reading Shantaram... its a great book.. n i love reading it...

    I m noting down all the quotes mentioned in the book.. they are so real... its gonna help me all my life...

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