Shantaram

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Shantaram is the 2003 novel written by Gregory David Roberts, a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escaped from Pentridge Prison and fled to India where he lived for 10 years.

  • I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun towers, I became my country’s most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died. They were better men than I am, most of them; better men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else’s hate, or love, or indifference. And I buried them, too many of those men, and grieved their stories and their lives into my own.
  • There is a difference between the dishonest bribe and the honest bribe. The dishonest bribe is the same in every country, but the honest bribe is India's alone. - Didier Levy
  • I was going through deep and silent water. Nothing and no-one could make me happy. Nothing and no-one could make me sad. I was tough. Which is probably the saddest thing you can say about a man.
  • There's a truth deeper than experience. It's beyond what we see, or even what we feel. It's an order of truth that separates the profound from the merely clever, and the reality from the perception. We're 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 doesn't always help us to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world. And the only way to know that truth is to share it, from heart to heart, just as Prabhakar told it to me, just as I'm telling it to you now.
  • "Most loves are like that ... You heart starts to feel like an overcrowded lifeboat. You throw your pride out to keep it afloat, and your self-respect and independence. After a while, you start throwing people out - your friends, everyone you used to know. And it's still not enough. The lifeboat is still sinking, and you know it's going to take you down with it. I've seen that happen to a lot of girls here. That's why I'm sick of love."
  • Indians are the Italians of Asia and vice versa. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy, and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop at the corner. For them, food is the music inside the body and music is the food inside the heart. Amore or Pyar makes every man a poet, a princess of peasant girl if only for second eyes of man and woman meets.
  • I stood in the harsh electric light of that new tunnel, in Bombay's Arthur Road Prison, and I wanted to laugh. Hey guys, I wanted to say, can't you be a little more original? But I couldn't speak. Fear dries a man's mouth, and hate strangles him. That's why hate has no great literature: real fear and real hate have no words.
  • Fate gives all of us three teachers, three friends, three enemies, and three great loves in our lives. But these twelve are always disguised, and we can never know which one is which until we've loved them, left them, or fought them.
  • That's how we keep this crazy place together - with the heart.... India is the heart. It's the heart that keeps us together. There's no place with people, like my people, Lin. There's no heart like the Indian heart.
  • It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you have got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving,can become the story of your life.
  • I know now that it's the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it's a sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love.
  • The past reflects eternally between two mirrors - the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn't do or say.
  • One of the reasons why we crave love, & seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, & shame, & sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself 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.
  • Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that's all there is. Love & its duty, sorrow & its truth. In the end that's all we have - to hold on tight until the dawn.
  • The difference between news and gossip-News tells you what people did, gossip tells you how much they enjoyed it.
  • Every day, when you are on the run, is the whole of your life. Every free minute is a short story with a happy ending.
  • If fate doesn't make you laugh, then you don't get the joke.
  • Nothing grieves more deeply or pathetically than one half of a great love that isn’t meant to be.
  • It’s a characteristic of human nature that the best qualities, called up quickly in a crisis, are very often the hardest to find in a prosperous calm.
  • One of the ironies of courage, and the reason why we prize it so highly, is that we find it easier to be brave for someone else than we do for ourselves alone.
  • Lovers find their way by insights and confidences; they are the stars they use to navigate the ocean of desire. And the brightest of those stars are the heartbreaks and sorrows. The most precious gift you can bring to your lover is your suffering.
  • There’s no meanness too spiteful or too cruel, when we hate someone for all the wrong reasons.
  • The sane man is simply a better liar than an insane man.
  • Fate’s way of beating us in a fair fight is to give us warnings that we hear, but never heed.
  • The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men,' he said, 'It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds and there are bad deeds. Men are just men —it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good or evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone —the noblest of man alive or the most wicked— has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-folds of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward God.
  • Guilt is the hilt of the knife that we use on ourselves, and love is often the blade; but it's worry that keeps the knife sharp, and worry that gets most of us, in the end.
  • If you make your heart into a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself.
  • Despotism despises nothing so much as righteousness in its victims.
  • At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread instead is that we won't stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone.
  • A dream is a place where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and fear are exactly the same, we call the dream a nightmare.
  • Men reveal what they think when they look away, and what they feel when they hesitate. With women, it’s the other way around.
  • Happiness is a myth, which was invented to make us buy things.
  • The lies we tell ourselves are the ghosts that haunt the empty house of midnight.
  • We know that crying is a good and natural thing. We know that crying isn't a weakness, but a kind of strength. Still, the weeping rips us root by tangled root from the earth, and we crash like fallen trees when we cry.
  • A good man is as strong as the right woman needs him to be.
  • Anything that can be put in a nutshell should remain there.
  • Fate always gives you two choices, the one you should take, and the one you do.
  • The cloak of the past is cut from patches of feeling, and sewn with rebus threads. Most of the time, the best we can do is wrap it around ourselves for comfort or drag it behind us as we struggle to go on.

Sometimes we see the past so clearly, and read the legend of its parts with such acuity, that every stitch of time reveals its purpose, and the kind of message enfolded in it.

  • There is no man, and no place, without a war. The only thing we can do is choose a side, and fight. That is the only choice we get - who we fight for, who we fight against. That is life.
  • Luck is what happens to you when fate gets tired of waiting.
  • Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure or clearer than sorrow.
  • You are not a man until you give your love, truly and freely to a child. And you are not a good man until you earn the love, truly and freely, of a child in return”
  • Being in love we often pay no attention whatsoever to the substance of what lover says, while being intoxicated to ecstasy by the way it's said”
  • "Be true to love where ever you find it, and be true to yourself and everything that you really are."
  • The truth is a bully we all pretend to like.
  • “We all strive to do one good thing to balance all the wrong that we have done in the past”
  • There's no believing in God...We either know God, or we don't.
  • Sometimes, you have to surrender before you win
  • "Silence is the tortured man's revenge."
  • "Nobody is ever naked in India. And especially, nobody is naked without clothes.
    So...how do you take a shower?
    By wearing the over-underpants over underpants."
  • "Some of the worst wrongs, were caused by people who tried to change things."
  • For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence 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 hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for 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.
  • The fully mature man, has about two seconds left to live.
  • "Civilization, after all, is defined by what we forbid, more than what we permit."
  • Optimism is the first cousin of love, and it's exactly like love in three ways; it's pushy, it has no real sense of humor and it turns up where you least expect it.
  • The real trick in life is to want nothing, and to succeed in getting it.
  • People always hurt us with their trust. The surest way to hurt someone you like is to put all your trust in him.”
  • "Khaled, my first teacher, was the kind of man who carried his past in the temple fires of his eyes, and fed the flames with pieces of his broken heart. I've known men like Khaled in prisons, on battlefields, and in the dens where smugglers, mercenaries, and other exiles meet. They all have certain characteristics in common. They're tough, because there's a kind of toughness that's found in the worst sorrow. They're honest, because the truth of what happened to them won't let them lie. They're angry, because they can't forget the past or forgive it. And they're lonely. Most of us pretend, with greater or lesser success, that the minute we live in is something we can share. But the past for ever one of us is a desert island; and those like Khaled, who find themselves marooned there, are always alone" ~page 443 - 444
  • Dream is the place where a wish and a fear meet. When the wish and the fear are exactly the same, we call the dream a nightmare. - Didier
  • I hate it when people take so long to drink a single glass. It is like putting a condom to masturbate. - Didier
  • It’s a fact of life on run that you often love more people than you trust. For people in the safe world, of course, exactly the opposite is true. - Lin
  • Discipline and abstraction of putting my life into words, every day, helped me to cope with shame and its first cousin, despair. - Lin
  • Mistakes are like bad loves, the more you learn from them, the more you wish they’d never happened. - Karla
  • Prison systems are like black holes for human bodies: no light escapes from them, and no news.
  • Prisons are the temples where devils learn to pray. Every time we turn the key we twist the knife of fate, because every time we cage a man we close him in with hate.
  • In prison, a man rations his smiles because predatory men see smiling as a weakness, weak men see it as an invitation, and prison guards see it as a provocation to some new torment.
  • The only victory that really counts in prison is survival.
  • Cruelty is a kind of cowardice. Cruel laughter is the way cowards cry they are not alone, and causing pain is how they grieve.
  • Rule number one of street fighting - stand your ground and never walk backwards, unless you’re preparing a counter-strike. Rule number two - never put your head down. Rule number three - always get crazier than the other guy. Rule number four - always keep something in reserve. - Lin
  • “In matters of food I am French, in matters of love I am Italian, and in matters of business I am Swiss. Very Swiss. Strictly Neutral.” - Didier
  • The only force more ruthless and cynical than the business of big politics is the politics of big business.
  • Now, sadly, there is all attitude and no style. It is the mark of the age in which we live that the style becomes the attitude instead of the attitude becoming the style.
  • Sometimes the lion must roar, just to remind the horse of his fear.
  • A politician is someone who promises you a bridge, even when there is no river.
  • What characterizes the human race more,’ Karla once asked me, ‘cruelty or the capacity to feel shame for it?’ I thought the question was acutely clever then, when I first heard it, but I’m lonelier and wiser now, and I know that it isn’t cruelty or shame that characterizes the human races. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.
  • There is nothing so depressing as good advice, and I will be pleased if you do not inflict it upon me. Frankly, I am shocked at you. You must know this, surely? Some years ago I suffered such an offensively gratuitous piece of good advice that I was depressed for six months afterwards. It was a very close call - I almost never recovered.
  • There’s no animal in the world with a deeper sense of parody than a horse. A cat can make you look clumsy and a dog can make you look stupid, but only a horse can make you look both at the same time. And then, with nothing more than the flick of a tail or a casual stomp on your foot, it lets you know that it did in on purpose.
  • We don’t really know what a pleasure it is to run in our own language until we are forced to stumble in someone else’s.
  • Men wage war for profit or principle, but they fight them for land and women.
  • For what is love if not the promise to forgive? - Lin
  • I'd lost my closest friends in the same week, and with them I'd lost the mark on the psychic map that says You are here. Personality and personal identity are in some ways like co-ordinates on the street map drawn by our intersecting relationships. We know who we are and we define what we are by references to the people we love and reasons for loving them.
  • "He would have made a good soldier."
    I raised my eyebrows in greater surprise. Modena wasn't just meek, it seemed to me then, he was a weak man. I couldn't imagine what Abdullah meant. I didn't know then that good soldiers are defined by what they can endure, not by what they can inflict.
  • We are made out of stars, you and I.
  • Optimism is the first cousin of love and it is exactly like love in three ways: it's pushy, it has no real sense of humor, and it shows up where you least expect it.
  • But the soul has no culture. The soul has no color, or accent, or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul cannot be stilled.
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