Shantaram Summary and Analysis
Lin goes to work for Khader’s mafia, first learning the art of money laundering from the Palestinian, Khaled Ansari. Khaled teaches Lin both the philosophy – that all money, in some way, is connected to crime – and the exchange rates of the black market. Lin and Khaled come to like each other through the course of this training.
Meanwhile, at Leopold’s, Vikram tells Lin more about why he was released from jail. Apparently, the police liked Lin – in the course of investigating him, they discovered that he ran the slum clinic. Although after a routine fingerprint check they also found that he was wanted by the Australian police, they still decided to release Lin (for a steep price, of course) because of his good works. Didier later mentions that he has discovered something: the person who set him up for prison was a woman. Lin later runs into Prabaker, who is well into the wooing process with Parvati. Johnny Cigar, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Parvati’s sister, Sita.
Outside, Lin runs into a major demonstration. He learns that Indira Ghandi has been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard. The demonstrators call for revenge on all Sikhs. The chapter closes with Lin and Khaled discussing hatred – which Lin says is a toxic force, and which Khaled understands and feels.
Chapter Twenty-Three finds Lin six months into his employment under Khader; the mafia boss and he discuss several topics, including Lin’s escape from Australian prison and, eventually, Khader’s theory of the universe. Khader believes that physics and morality are inextricably linked – that both tend toward greater and greater complexity, approaching the Ultimate Complexity, which Khader recognizes by the name of God. Lin resists Khader’s argument at points but finds it generally intriguing. At the end of their discussion, Khader assures Lin that he will be safe as long as he remains in Bombay.
Lin then visits Madjid, with whom he has been working for the last while learning the gold smuggling trade. Lin reveals that Khader wants him to move on to passports. He bids Madjid farewell and meets Abdullah on his motorcycle. Out of nowhere, some men attack Abdullah; after a short fight, Abdullah and Lin flee the scene. Abdullah does not explain the cause of this fight and Lin does not ask. They come across Lisa Carter walking – she has improved tremendously. Abdullah finds Lisa very attractive and invites her for a motorcycle ride, which Lisa accepts. Lin finds himself walking. He bumps into two European black market criminals, Scorpio George and Gemini George. After a brief philosophically tinged chat with these two, Lin runs into Ulla, who asks Lin for help once more. Lin is understandably suspicious but trusts Ulla once more.
As Chapter Twenty-Four begins, Ulla explains that she is in trouble following a deal-gone-bad with Modena and Maurizio. Lin loans Ulla money and Ulla tells him that Karla has fled Bombay for Goa, an Indian state south of Maharashtra. After parting from Ulla, Lin travels to Goa and purchases an Indian motorcycle. He cruises the beaches, looking for Karla, finally running into her in Anjuna. Karla tells Lin that she fled Bombay after a business operation she was in charge of went horribly wrong. Lin confesses his love to her and they make love. They stay in Anjuna together, enjoying each other’s company tremendously, and Karla asks Lin not to return to Bombay. Lin insists that he must, and Karla refuses to return with him. After a difficult parting, Lin packs his motorcycle for Bombay. Karla tells him as he leaves that she will not wait for him.
In Chapter Twenty-Five, Lin goes to work for Abdul Ghani in the passport trade. Abdul informs Lin that his former instructor in the gold market, Madjid, has been slaughtered by followers of Sapna during Lin’s absence. Abdul then leads Lin on a tour of their passport-forging operation, introducing him to two Tamil Sri Lankan workers: Krishna, who forges watermarks, and Villu, who forges stamps. Thereafter, Lin visits the workers every day for a week, observing their skills. Work in the passport workshop absorbs him.
Lin stops by the slum to visit Prabaker and learns that he is to be married to Pavarti. Johnny Cigar is also to be married to Sita. Lin and Johnny Cigar have a heart-to-heart about Johnny’s history – his mother, who raised him alone, has just died, and thus he finally feels it would be right to marry. Meanwhile, Anand Rao, one of Lin’s old neighbors, approaches with a problem. Lin assumes that Anand wants money, a suggestion that deeply offends Anand, who walks away without disclosing the problem.
Lin leaves the slum and heads to Leopold’s, where Didier greets him with news that Vikram has hatched a plot to win Letitia’s love. Didier asks Lin to help with the elaborate plan simply because Letitia trusts him (and almost no one else), and Lin reluctantly agrees. He arrives shortly thereafter at Marine Lines Station, where he is instructed to position Letitia and blindfold her. Letitia arrives as well and Lin is able to get her situated and blindfolded. A train approaches and suddenly two men seize Letitia by the arms and carry her to the top of the train. Lin follows and finds a band of musicians waiting. Letitia remains blindfolded as the train begins moving – she is allowed to see just as a banner proposing marriage appears. The musicians strike up a love song and it appears by the tears in Letitia's eyes that Vikram’s plan has worked.
Lin passes from this happy scene to an alarming one – a boy appears and warns him that three Nigerians are looking to kill him. This warning is echoed first by Gemini George and then by Prabaker. Lin seeks council with Didier, Vikram and Abdullah; they decide to go after the Africans first. With help from Hassaan Obikwa and Raheem, Lin locates the men who are after him. They jump them in their hotel room and after a gruesome fight they interrogate the men. They have been sent after Lin as punishment for a major heroin deal gone wrong. After more torture, they reveal that Lin was fingered by Maurizio Belcane.
Lin, Vikram and Abdullah race to Ulla’s place, hoping to learn of Maurizio’s whereabouts. They find Lisa and Maurizio there: Lisa armed with a carving knife and Maurizio cowering in the closet. They learn that Maurizio had stolen the heroin money from the Nigerians and blamed the loss on Lin. Shortly thereafter, Modena found the stolen money and fled with it, hoping to run away with Ulla. Lin beats Maurizio brutally – though not fatally – and leaves him by a hospital. At the chapter’s close, he learns from Prabaker that Anand Rao, the man whom Lin had offended with the offer of money, has killed Rasheed in the slum.
In this group of chapters we see Lin changing once more. After having grown to know Bombay like a peasant, he is now getting to know it like a high-profile criminal. His old attachments – to Prabaker, to the slum, to the clinic, even to Karla – seem secondary to his new ones – to Abdullah, to the black market, and most of all to Khader.
Lin’s behavior matches this shift in priorities: he does not know how to respond to Anand Rao’s cry for help, for instance, offering him money (the language he now speaks as a gangster) rather than listening to his problems (which he likely would have done before). Lin’s former friends certainly notice this shift in allegiances and attempt to warn him away from the criminal life – to no avail. This change in Lin will continue – indeed, the next two parts of the novel deal with his life of crime. The beneficent slum medic is no more, it seems.
One trend that links both slum world and underworld, however – love. In these chapters, several characters fall in love, wallow in love, propose marriage, plan for marriage. Every subplot seems to have love as a motivating force: Vikram’s attempt to impress Letitia into marrying him, Prabaker’s good news about Pavarti, Modena’s plan to run away with Ulla. Even Khaled, in recounting his history, recalls being in love with a Jewish girl in New York (466). This story is especially illustrative of Roberts’ passionate yet ironic treatment of love. Khaled says, “I was with that girl, making love to her, on the night my father died in an Israeli prison.” In Roberts’ world, love often cuts across political and personal affiliations in a bitter way. His characters love tragically, totally, in defiance of fate and history. Violence and death always accompanies such love – whether in one ironic blow, as in Khaled’s story, or in quick juxtapositions, as when the violent torture of the Nigerians follows swiftly on Vikram’s marriage proposal, or when Anand Rao’s murder of Rasheed buts up against Prabaker and Johnny Cigar’s marriage celebration.
Of course the centerpiece of this theme is Chapter Twenty-Four - Karla and Lin’s short but intense fling in Anjuna. Even here, their time together plays against a backdrop of tragedy – Indira Ghandi’s murder and the gruesome Sapna killings (which turn out to be much more closely linked to Karla then may be suspected). Their love plays out like an escape from reality, like an unsustainable dream. They don’t talk about their histories or confess their problems; they simply relax into a fantasy togetherness while the political and criminal world continues. In general, Roberts uses such big passions and stark juxtapositions to capture the enormous range of life in India. Everything is big in his setting – death, love, violence, freedom, slavery. It is a world of a billion dreams and a billion disasters. And always there is a fatalistic knowledge that happiness cannot be sustained – that falling in love is lovely, but temporary. As the ever-quippy Karla puts it: “People haven’t stopped believing in love…. They just don’t believe in a happy ending anymore” (504).
And while we’re on the subject of big themes and big ideas, this section contains our first proper introduction to Khader’s Theory of Everything – his attempt to link the insights of ethics and religion with those of physics. Gregory David Roberts, on his website www.shantaram.com, proposes a philosophical project very similar to Khader’s (though without the emphasis on God found in the novelistic version). For an exposition of the big ideas in Shantaram one would do well to visit the website. For our purposes, though we lose a lot of detail in the process, Khader’s theory seems to come down to two assertions – first, the scientific assertion that the universe is growing more and more complex every minute; second, the attendant moral assertion that any human action that aids this complexity is good, and any action that hinders this complexity (such as the killing of another human being) is evil. In the chapters to come, Khader will spend much time unpacking this theory. As of now, the theory gives us a chance to recognize just how much of himself and his own life Roberts put into his novel – not just the plot, but the thought as well.
Shantaram Essays and Related Content
- Shantaram: Major Themes
- Shantaram: Questions
- Shantaram: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Gregory David Roberts: Biography
- Shantaram Summary
- About Shantaram
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-21
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 22-25
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-36
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 37-39
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 40-42
- Related Links on Shantaram
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources