Monthly Archives: May 2013

Book Review: Shantaram

It took me a long time to get into this book, but once the plot started to unfold and the series of events was so life changing, instructive and influential, I was hooked. I could not put the book down and even missed my stop on the buses and trains because I was captivated.

shantaram

Shantaram (narrated by Lin), written in 2003 by Gregory David Roberts, is about a man who was serving a 19-year sentence for robbery in Australia, Roberts escaped from Pentridge Prison and fled to India. It vividly portrays the tumultuous life in Bombay (note to self: must visit Bombay)

The escape-from-prison chapter had me gripped. Lin describes how him and his friend were escaping together. There were workmen in the corridors with saws and drills doing refurbishments and this was their chance to escape. The workmen went on a break and left all their tools. They had a window of 10 minutes to drill holes through roofs, climb ladders and try and get electricity for their drill, all without getting caught. Could they do it? As their first drill wasn’t big enough to cut through the roof, they had to change their plan and use another one which needed electricity. So Lin has to climb down to plug the drill in to the nearest power supply which is through a door where the security guards stand. He went for it and amazingly didn’t get caught. They managed to cut the hole, the daylight shone on them and they were free men. They had to wait on the roof, in a crevis, so the security guards couldn’t see them, for a further 20 minutes as there were lorries delivering orders to the prison and they would have been spotted had they moved. Once the coast was clear, they jumped over the wall and ran for freedom. Escaping from one of the highest security prisons in broad daylight made him one of Australia’s most wanted men for the next ten years.

He travels to India on a fake passport and meets a guy called Prabaker who names him Lin. Prabaker is a guide for Lin and shows him around the city and villages. They meet Prabaker’s mum who gives Lin a Maharashtrian name of ‘Shantaram’, meaning Man of God’s Peace, because she judged Lin to be peaceful and happy.

After getting robbed in the night, he ends up living in the slums, where he earns his neighbors’ respect by opening a makeshift clinic and learning Hindi and Marathi. Within a few hundred pages, Lin has encountered a Lonely Planet guide’s worth of third world dangers and annoyances — including cholera, human trafficking, a leper colony, a fire and cat-sized rats in nightly, knee-deep migration patterns.

He finds a father figure in a gurulike local mafia boss, an Afghan named Khader, and a lover in a mysterious Swiss woman, Carla. He works as a counterfeiter and smuggler within Khader’s criminal empire, abandoning a possible career as a Bollywood agent and joins a gun-running expedition to Afghanistan.

All in all its an A+ book, written with a wide range of characters of every moral persuasion, both good and bad. Roberts captures the human struggle to survive and thrive, for better and worse. It is written so well and so descriptively. I found myself reading pages of description about Lin’s escape from prison, about the slums, about the dirty prison he went to India on Arthur Street. He manages to paint his experiences so vividly. There is speculation about the book being turned into a film. I think the film would be amazing and really bring the story to life, but Im not sure if it would do the book justice as it is a glorious piece of three dimensional work.

Im now reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini which is equally as gripping.

What are you reading? And can you recommend any books?

Winter Garden

My final birthday surprise was dinner at a secret location. I was told to meet boy at Baker Street at 7.45pm. After blowing all my guesses I had no idea where we were going and I remember being busy at work and was so close to google-ing “restaurants in Baker Street”  but every time I got round to it, something came up. However, for once, I don’t think Google would have helped.

We arrive and walk into a building named 222. I was confused and my initial thoughts were, this must be a posh restaurant I haven’t heard about. Then I saw palm trees and thought wow, this place looks similar to The Winter Garden. Then as we walked up the grand, golden and rich hallway I realised it was The Winter Garden. It is the restaurant for The Landmark Hotel London, situated at the soaring eight-story glass roof atrium. We were shown to our seats (with pillows) and gasped took pictures of the surroundings. The ambiance was quiet but buzzing, it was busy but everyone was spaced out so you have privacy, the lights were dim giving an intimate feel and there was a pianist playing (who we spotted sitting upstairs). Surrounded by palm trees and the twinkling stars above us, it felt like we were sitting outside in a hot country. Our waiters were lovely, polite and patient (we couldn’t decide what to eat as everything on the menu sounded delicious). Dinner;

Starters

  • Wild mushroom ravioli (boy)
  • Lobster risotto (girl)

Main

  • Chargrilled rack of Cotswold lamb, herb crust, boulangere potato and minted salsify (boy)
  • Wild halibut, roasted sweet potato, brown shrimp and baby leeks (girl)

The dinner was really tasty and mine was better than boys (for once!) I was quite smitten about this, but seeming as it was my birthday I was allowed. During dinner, the pianist played a really nice and melodic happy birthday piece and I got worried thinking they knew it was my birthday. Panic over. It was just a random piece. As we were deciding what to have for dessert, the happy birthday piece was played again and the waiters came out with candles and chocolates. I used to love stuff like this but OMG how embarrassing. A very sweet thought nevertheless.

We had ice cream and mint tea for dessert and then wandered around the venue, taking in the lovely tranquil atmosphere and admiring the exquisite design. It has an amazing mirror bar too. It felt like a mini holiday, with all the palm tress and neither of us wanted to leave.

You must remember to look up. The sky looks amazing at night through the glass roof.

(I shall be adding photos as soon as I locate them)

Windsor Picnic

For once, the weather was lovely, unheard of for a bank holiday in England. We made use of the extra day by taking the family to Windsor for a picnic. After a hot sweaty but traffic free (albeit the horse show traffic we encountered when we arrived) drive we arrived and laid out our picnic blankets.

picnic time with castle views

picnic time with castle views

our mummies

our mummies

After lapping up the sunshine, we got out all our picnic goodies and had a nice big lunch in the sun. There were dogs, birds, runners and kids all having fun in the sun too. After eating, we took a stroll one hour walk to the deer sanctuary. There were so many of them and we could see them slowly strolling over to graze on a new field. We had a stroll along the river thames too with ice creams in our hands. It was an enjoyable, chilled out day, loved by all. Its so easy to sit at home, waste the day away and not really accomplish anything, so plan ahead, have an open mind and make things happen. Take pictures and savour the memories forever.

river thames views

river thames views

same shot a year on

the same shot a year on!

Its weird how quickly time flies. It doesnt stand still for anyone or anything. It will still pass, if you do nothing, so you may as well make use of the time and do something as you will never get it back right? Wrong. Sometimes, you need to do nothing – just to let your body relax. Doing nothing for me, is where I am physically doing nothing ie. reading or blogging or watching a movie (as I am sitting down). As I workout and am quite active a lot of the time, its quite nice to sit and do nothing to recover. This picture is basically the same shot, a year on, and depicts what I am trying to explain. The same two people, but have done so much between, learnt so much about each other and still make use of their time when they are together or apart. So make more plans with people who you are close to and cherish time together.