I just started rereading Shantaram, Gregory David Robert’s most wonderfully written saga combining some bold Indian adventure with a softer India love back story. I am enjoying it so much more than I remember from my first reading. Interestingly enough, I so rightly recognize the reason why the story is so much better this time around, and that is because my [current] personal perspective is now so much more adjacent to the spirit of the story.
Let me explain.
It became quickly apparent how just after a single chapter in, the story felt better than my first reading. And here I realized it wasn’t the story that had changed, but me. That was a very surprising revelation as while I have always been conscious in the abstract on how all people change – yet I have never been so startling confronted with evidence of my own.
For those of you who haven’t read Shantaram, it is ostensibly the true tales of a young man who escaped from prison in Australia to journey all the way to India to begin life anew. As I said, it’s an adventure story but it’s also a love story of this one man’s newly found freedom told amidst the spectacular backdrop of the indomitable subcontinent of India.
I first read the book circa ’07/’08 and my perspective was one of having limited but prejudicial information concerning the subjects at hand. I had traveled to India a couple of times back in the ’90s. And in ’99 I traveled in Peru with three crazy Australian guys in as which our grand trek finished out at Machu Picchu at the very end of the Inca Trail. Also during that same decade I made a brief trip to Australia where I became somewhat introduced to that wild Aussie strain of the classic outlaw gene.
Given distance and the passage of time, I can see more clearly now how I was more than just a little bit prejudiced during my first reading. And sadly, I thought I knew something about the subjects (but in fact didn’t) and had sufficient experience to judge when also in fact I didn’t. To more confound my perspective at that time, I was also in the process of wrapping up my first novel (or starting my second) which of course made me overly hypercritical.
Now, after having been living in Mexico these past six years, my current perspective is, and I believe, more correctly aligned with the spirit of the book. Which is concerning the real nature of freedom, understanding as well celebrating the joy that goes with being a truly free man.
And like so many others have said – mirrored by this author, and others: where that kind of freedom only comes to those who dare [at the very least] to change postal codes.