Shantaram Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30


Part Four opens with Didier’s story – how he ran away from home; fell in love with an older man, Rinaldo, who trained him in the ways of the aesthete; stole Rinaldo’s money and ran away from him as well. After leaving Leopold’s, Lin visits Khader, with whom he continues the philosophical debate begun in the last section. Khader elaborates the ethical dimension of his theory, proposing that all actions, in order to count as good, must be generalizable (that is, okay for anyone in the world to perform). After leaving this chat, Lin travels to The Sea Rock, an upscale hotel, where he meets Lisa, who introduces him to her Bollywood friend, Kalpana. Over a charras, Lisa proposes that Lin help Kalpana cast westerners as extras in Bollywood films. Lin decides that he is interested. Kalpana leaves and Lin and Lisa have lunch. Lisa reveals that she would like to work with Lin in the Bollywood casting business and he agrees. They travel to the movie studio together where they meet Cliff De Souza and Chandra Mehta, two Bollywood producers.

After a cordial meeting, Lin departs, only to run into Kavita Singh, the reporter. He gives her a lift back downtown, meanwhile telling her the eerie story of the murder in his slum: Rasheed and Anand Rao lived together until Rasheed’s wife and sister moved into the slum, at which point Anand moved out. Rasheed then proposed that they set up a shop in order to move up in the world. He figured the only way to get enough money would be to sell a kidney, and after (according to him) the hospital refuses to buy his kidney, he convinced his wife and then his sister to sell a kidney each. They both slipped into comas. Meanwhile, Anand (who is fond of the two women) tracked down Rasheed and found him drinking away the women’s kidney money. He cut Rasheed’s throat in vengeance. Later, however, the women woke from their comas. Lin tells Kavita that the women are currently objects of veneration – that they attract pilgrims to their hut and affect miraculous cures. Kavita likes the story and agrees to publicize it in her paper.

Chapter Twenty-Seven begins with a portrait of the passport black market – a world of international criminals, of missions to Africa, of escaping political dissidents. This dangerous work keeps him busy into the monsoon season, at which time he briefly visits the slum to find Prabaker and Johnny preparing for their double wedding. Lin and Johnny chat about the history of Johnny Cigar’s name (inspired by an advertisement). After promising to attend their wedding, Lin bikes down to the movie studio, where he meets Lisa. She is well on her way in the Bollywood industry and she shows Lin around while alluding to continuing trouble between Maurizio, Ulla and Modena. Lin arranges to secure some money for some Bollywood producers and he is invited to play an extra in a film. Though he is a wanted fugitive, Lin decides, “Why not?” and appears in the movie. Lin then bikes Lisa to her house, where Lisa tells him that Kavita has been writing very popular articles about the two miracle women in the slum; she has dubbed them “the Blue Sisters.”

Lin leaves her only to be awakened by a phone call two hours later. Lisa tells him that she has killed Maurizio and that Ulla is with her in her apartment. Lin jumps on his bike to help with the situation.

Lin recounts his first knife fight in a prison laundry at the beginning of Chapter Twenty-Eight before returning us to the action-packed business of the moment. Maurizio is dead by a stab wound. Lin immediately realizes that Ulla, not Lisa, committed the killing. Lisa affirms this and tells him what happened: Maurizio burst into the apartment with a switchblade, already covered with blood, and attacked them both. He overpowered Lisa and was on the verge of killing her when Ulla stabbed him in the back. Lin calls Abdullah, who contacts Hassaan Obikwa. Abdullah soon arrives, though Hassaan is delayed.

Ulla fills everyone in on the story while they wait for the body disposal team. She says that Modena arranged the drug deal with the Nigerian businessman, that he and Maurizio stole the money together, and that Modena then stole the money from Maurizio, hoping to escape with Ulla. Maurizio found Modena – incapacitated by illness – and tortured him with the switchblade, disfiguring his face. Modena, however, never told him that Ulla was hiding with the money in the next room. After Maurizio left, Ulla fled the scene to Lisa’s apartment, leaving Modena bound and bleeding on his bed. Hearing this, Abdullah arranges to have his friend check on Modena’s hotel room.

Hassaan arrives and quickly rolls up Maurizio’s body in plastic and carts it away. Lin gives him ten thousand of Ulla and Modena’s stash and Hassaan declares that they are even. Reflecting on Modena’s ability to endure torture for Ulla’s sake, Lin recalls an episode in prison in which he too withstood torture for the sake of a woman he fell in love with – a television actress who had led a prison class. Though the notion of Modena’s now-disfigured face haunts Lin, he distracts himself with visits to Leopold’s (where a new, Karla-free crowd has gathered around Didier) and with weddings of Vikram and Prabaker and Johnny Cigar.

Inspired by an article about the Blue Sisters, Lin visits Anand Rao at the Arthur Road Prison. Anand is happy to see him, but distressed that Kavita Singh has been trying to interview him for her articles. He does not want to be released from prison – he wants to serve his time for the crime he committed, however justified it may have been. Anand departs, asking Lin not to visit again, and Lin is left bewildered and impressed by Anand’s fortitude in the face of the miseries of Arthur Road.

Chapter Twenty-Nine continues depicting Lin’s new life of high-profile crime. He recounts the colors of a Bollywood set where he plays an extra, arranges to forge a passport to Denmark for Vikram, and sees the two newlyweds off to a European life. Lin also finds himself involved in a surprising but ultimately fruitful passport operation that lands him in Singapore, where he comes into contact with Khader’s criminal organization there. Despite this dangerous and exciting life – lunch with Chandra Mehta and Cliff De Souza (the Bollywood producers); cavorting with beautiful actresses – Lin sinks into a deep depression, unhappy that love has passed him by as he witnesses so much happiness in others.

Meanwhile, Lin receives word that the police are after Abdullah. They suspect Lin’s brother-in-crime of being the Sapna killer. Lin meets Lisa and they rush to attempt to help Abdullah. At Leopold’s they meet Didier, who tells them that the police have already killed Abdullah outside the Crawford Market police station. Lin rushes out into the streets to see a teeming mob, furious that Sapna has been slain. Out of the mob charges Khaled Ansari, who tells Lin that they cannot find Abdullah’s body.

Lin, crushed by Abdullah’s death, runs into Johnny Cigar, who is also crying. Johnny reveals that Prabaker has also been horrifically injured in an auto accident. Lin and Johnny rush to the hospital, where they find Prabaker in his final hour, his lower jaw ripped away in the accident by steel rebar. Sure that Prabaker will die, Lin despairs.

As Chapter Thirty begins, Lin feels horribly alone – having lost his two closest friends, Abdullah and Prabaker. He finds that his mafia bosses have also skipped town. Lin turns to Lisa for consolation and they have a long talk about her escape from Madame Zhou and from heroin. Lisa reveals that she is in love with Lin and proposes that they escape together with some money Abdullah had left with him. Lin is tempted but refuses. Instead, he determines to “get stoned” (639). He arranges a room at Gupta-ji’s opium den and buys some heroin.

After a dreamlike passage, Lin is abruptly awoken by Nazeer, Khader’s chauffeur. He reveals that he has been in the opium den for three months. Nazeer insists that Lin come with him, and after Lin weakly resists, Nazeer incapacitates him and takes him to a waiting car, where Lin finds Karla. She reveals that Khader sent her to retrieve him from the opium den. Nazeer takes them to a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean and Karla reveals that she and Nazeer have made a one thousand dollar bet as to whether he’ll kick heroin or not: she thinks he will, Nazeer thinks he won’t.

After sleeping again, Lin awakes to find Khader, who reveals that Abdullah was not Sapna. He says that his men have found and killed the real Sapna, and that Abdullah was set up by Iranian enemies. Khader tells Lin that he wants him for “a holy mission” to Afghanistan, where the local tribal warlords will not bother them if they are accompanied by an “American” (a part that Lin is asked to play once more) because they rely on American funding to battle the Russians.

But first he must quit heroin. Lin goes through a horrendous cold turkey withdrawal. He asks Nazeer to bind and gag him and rides out five awful days without drugs. Finally, Lin starts to recover, and Nazeer sets about training him to ride a horse, which he will have to do in Afghanistan. Though Lin is anything but a born rider, Nazeer is a wonderful teacher and helps him to a level of relative competence.

As the chapter closes, Lin runs into Vikram, who has come back to Bombay with Letitia to work in the Bollywood industry with Lisa. He also sees Karla again, and again declares his love. Once more, they make love – but Karla does not reciprocate his love. He tells her that he will go on the mission to Afghanistan with Khader, and though Karla is worried for him, she doesn’t tell him not to go.


Part Four documents Lin’s continuing rise in monetary fortune (and, perhaps, his corresponding fall in personal fortune). He has less contact with the slum than ever and seems to have strayed far from his titular identity, Shantaram, “the man of peace.” Increasingly, Lin falls into a life of fast money, beautiful women, movie stars, and international crime. Though Lin’s peaceful and violent sides have coexisted uneasily from the beginning of the story, we see the latter impulses begin to take over decisively in these chapters.

And as Lin takes a darker turn, so too the novel in general mostly abandons the happy and comic colors of the opening parts, instead showing the despair and brutality of Bombay life. Of course, this dark side has always been with us – recall Prabaker’s tour of “the real” Bombay, the slave market – but here it is unmitigated by good humor. Indeed, Prabaker himself – whose broad grin came to represent an unstoppable mirth in the face of tragedy – is killed off in a particularly gruesome and symbolic manner. That same mirthful grin is ripped from his skull in a random traffic accident. There will be no laughing Prabaker in the chapters to come.

In a similar way, the many characters who have been represented by light-and-dark sides together seem to succumb to darkness in Part Four. Ulla, who has before been represented as a sort of “hooker with a heart of gold,” shows up as a cowardly and wretched figure in the grisly mutilation episode involving her, Modena and Maurizio. Again, we’ve known all along that these three are involved in shady business, but up to this point in the novel, such shady business has been treated rather lightly. Sure, they’re in the black market, but so is everybody. Part Four reveals the truly terrible consequences of such a life, however, as characters die and suffer for petty sums of money.

It should come as no surprise, then, that this section gives us a taste of Lin on heroin. This episode serves as a sort of twisted flashback, pulling in strands from throughout the novel – Prabaker’s smile, Karla’s eyes – but refracting them through the stuporific haze of heroin. We’ve seen again and again how Roberts organizes the episodes in Lin’s life around images of birth – the emergence into the “uterine” hall of the Bombay airport, the sense of rebirth that comes with the name “Shantaram,” the feeling of a new family with Khader as father and Abdullah as brother, etc. This emergence from heroin provides another strong sense of rebirth. Lin’s criminal life seems to have culminated into the escape into heroin – the episode to come will provide him with a new identity, a new way out. Heroin is a sort of narrative end-stop, after which Lin can pursue another identity, another life.

Nevertheless, some common threads hold Lin to his past even as fate deals him a new future. Karla once again bridges sections of the novel, helping Lin out of the depths of heroin addiction. However, where we once might have felt Karla to be the object of Lin’s future, it is increasingly clear that she functions not as an end-point but as a bridge from one life to the next. She takes Lin into new and stimulating (and dangerous) environments, but then fades into the background. Recalling the Dantean model that Lin employed at the beginning of his novel, Karla works as a sort of “second Prabaker,” guiding Lin’s life. It’s worth pointing out that in Dante, too, the guide of the lower spheres – Virgil – gives way to a more celestial guide for the upper spheres – Beatrice. Of course, this is not a clear case of Virgil:Prabaker::Beatrice:Karla, but she does seem to work as his escort. And, as we’ll see, Lin does move from the underworld to a more transfigured, holy environment as he enters the war in Afghanistan.