I am reading an extraordinarily novel based on life experiences living in the slums of Mumbai (Bombay) the largest city in India, by the author Gregory David Roberts. In his novel Shantaram, the author reveals and relives his escape from prison in Australia and into anonymity of the ubiquitous slums of the largest city in India. As a work of art and literature the book is a masterpiece. Certainly one of the very best of thousands of books I’ve read.
This book changed my perspective on the selfless spirit and essential goodness of human beings. By contrast, the book exposes the rotting flesh of possession and wealth for it’s own sake — maniacally enforced on Earth by soul-crushing materialists.
I don’t know how to solve the disparity between wealth and poverty, good and evil, wisdom and stupidity. But, I am very sure that my Empathy has been magnified and focused by contrasting the squalid reality of daily life of sub-human slums in the shadow of the skyscrapers that house the wealthiest people in India. Empathy costs nothing except knowing that all sentient beings feel love and suffer the same pain we ourselves. — Lawrence R. Spencer, 2015
“The ancient Sanskrit legends speaks of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognized because she’s loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings–the wings that only we can see–and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.
The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn‘t wise.”
I am very careful about the books I read, and who wrote them, and published them, and why. I read a lot of books. Not many novels. Mostly non-fiction. However, I started reading Shantaramafter I did a lot of research about the author, Gregory David Roberts, and read parts of the book on the internet. I bought the book because I think the author is an excellent writer, who escaped from a 20-year prison sentence in Australia fled to Bombay (Mumbai) where he lived for many years in the slums with the “untouchables” of India. He spent most of his time as a solitary nurse treating the injuries and illnesses of his neighbors with a first aid kit in own his tiny hovel. He never charged money. He also sold drugs and worked for gangsters to earn a modest living while still in hiding as an escaped convict. Later, the author was captured in Germany and completed serving his 20 year prison sentence.
What the novel Shantaram reveals about the slums and ghettos of Mumbai is something that most Americans don’t know because nobody ever talks about “untouchables”! Poor people are “invisible” to the “upper classes”, i.e. people who earn more than a few dollars a day. Sixty percent of the 20 million citizens of Mumbai live on only 6% of the land, within a stones throw of the wealthiest people in India. The oppressive disparity of wealth, health services and housing between the rich and poor is an issue in the U.S. and around the world, but most visible and extreme in Mumbai.
I have known many very poor people from the slums of the southern states in the U.S.. They are the same kind of “untouchables” as the people who live in the slums of India. These are the rapidly growing population of the private prison system in the U.S.. I am reading Shantarambecause it is a novel about “untouchables”, written by a convict who also a nurse, a philosopher and an artist with the English language. Alien Interview It was written by a nurse, dictated to her by an alien philosopher about “untouchables”, who are the entire population of prison planet Earth. — Lawrence R. Spencer. 2015