Travel tales

My on the road reading moment

On the road reading memory

I’ve always been a book lover… and a fast reader. I’ll happily devour an entire book in one session, and am banned from reading in bed after many nights spent awake til 3am ‘just finishing the end of this chapter’. I’ve recently given in and invested in a Kindle, but before that my holiday reading of choice was the thickest book I could find. Anything below 400 pages wasn’t even going to get a look in. But you can have too much of a good thing, and there’s also a limit to what I can carry. At a hefty 950 pages, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts had been waiting on the shelf for a while. But a 12-hour flight to Bali and a couple of lazy days alone in Legian til my boyfriend arrived meant its time had come.

Balinese flower

Flower on the balcony in my hotel in Legian

Maybe autobiographical, maybe fiction, Shantaram is a epic story either way. A convicted heroin addict bank robber escapes a 19-year prison sentence in Australia and end up in India en route to Germany. He spends eight years as part of the Mumbai underworld – living in the slums, setting up a health clinic, working as a forger, getting involved with the Indian mafia, being put in prison and fighting with the rebels in Afghanistan. “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.” Right from the first line I was sucked into the story.

Indian train journey

Flashing back to my travels around India – on the train from Goa to Delhi

But it was the Indian part of the book that really came to life for me. I spent a few weeks in India about eight years before, but reading this it was like I’d only just left. Surrounded by the humidity and heat of Bali and the madness of the streets just south of Kuta, it was like Indonesia and India came together. The noise of the traffic horns, the smell of cooking and the chattering of exotic languages surrounded me on and off the page. Two days passed by in a jet-lagged haze – hiding from the mid-afternoon heat by the pool or sat up late at night on the balcony while a huge thunderstorm crashed around me.

Pool at night

Top reading spot by the hotel pool

Maybe it’s not a true story after all, and maybe the descriptions go on a bit, but for a while Shantaram transported me to a different country. And after two days in Bali, my boyfriend arrived and I had to admit I’d managed to see almost nothing of Legian. But in my head I’d been all the way to Mumbai and back.

This is my entry for The Works ‘On the Road’ travel writing competition, thanks to Emily Luxton and Travel with Kat for the nominations.

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Shelley
    November 17, 2012 at 12:20 am

    That is one of my all time favourite books!! I read it on the beach in Goa, and can’t wait to get to Mumbai next month to see Leopold’s in person. Let me know if you find another book like it, I’ve been looking and just can’t seem to find anything comparable…

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      It’s great isn’t it? And how fantastic to go and visit Leopolds. You can even do whole Shantaram themed tours around Mumbai now!

  • Reply
    Browsing the Atlas
    November 17, 2012 at 1:46 am

    Sounds like a good book. I wish I’d had it on my long, long, flight to Singapore. I didn’t have anything to read. 🙁

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      I have nightmares about being trapped on a long flight with nothing to read! As I don’t want to carry too much I usually end up picking up books in book exchanges or hotels when I’m away – you never know what you’ll get though, I’ve read some terrible books in desperate times!

  • Reply
    Late Lattes
    November 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

    This post is beautiful!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it – and thanks for visiting.

  • Reply
    emilyluxton
    November 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Great post, glad you decided to enter! I will definitely be adding Shantaram to my reading list! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks, it’s a great one for a long journey or a lazy beach holiday where you don’t have to lug it around too much!

  • Reply
    roamingtheworld
    November 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I wish I had a hungry to read like you do. I love books but never seem to make time for them. Beautiful entry!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      I only seem to have chance to read when I’m travelling now, but it always reminds me how much I love it and that I should make more time to read when I’m at home.

  • Reply
    aBitofCulture
    November 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    950 pages – ouch! Something that heavy would give me achy arms on the sunbed!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      It did give me a bit of a workout – can only imagine the size of the hardback version!

  • Reply
    Bashar A.
    November 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I wish that I had your reading abilities… I really enjoy it but I can’t seem to do it more than 30 minutes straight! I get distracted where I just need to get up and move… any suggestions? 🙂
    Enjoy your time together in Bali 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Long plane or train journeys are the best time when you can’t escape anywhere else!

  • Reply
    conquistadoree
    November 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Thank for for reminding me that Shantaram needs to be the next book I read. I bought it so long ago and have heard how amazing it is from everyone who has read it. I am finishing “The Lady and the Peacock” (about the life of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi) now and can’t wait to move on to Shantaram next!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      I’ve not heard of “The Lady and the Peacock” but will look it up, I’m always after new book recommendations to add to the reading list!

  • Reply
    EnJoyPCross
    November 21, 2012 at 5:05 am

    I love a good book that transports me to another part of the world. Nice post. I’m looking forward to reading and traveling more when I’m finally done with school this semester. I’ll have to add Shantaram to the list.
    Enjoy!
    ~P~

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks, it really does make you feel like you’re in India – good luck with finishing school and for lots of future travels!

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    November 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Not read that one, but as expected, it’s a great post, Lucy. Good luck!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Worth a read if you’re interested in India Jo – and don’t mind carrying it around!

  • Reply
    Madhu
    November 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I used to be like you. Just can’t seem to concentrate these days. Have attempted finishing Shantaram several times but keep getting distracted. It sits forlornly on my bedside with half a dozen unfinished books. Time to pick it up again 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      I’m not so good at reading at home, but when I have a lazy holiday day or a long journey I get completely absorbed.

  • Reply
    kate
    November 30, 2012 at 6:37 am

    One of my all time favourite books! I read it while travelling in India, managed to finish it before I got to Mumbai – and I believe it caused me to fall in love with the city even more than I would have otherwise!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      November 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      I would’ve loved to have read it in India, must have been even better to have some of the locations around you!

  • Reply
    Competition: On the road reading moments | Travel with Kat
    November 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    […] Lucy from On the Luce […]

  • Reply
    carlyhulls
    December 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Shantaram is definitely one of my favourites – I don’t know how I would go travelling in India but if anything was going to inspire me, this book is it. Thanks for a great post, i’ve got a long haul flight coming up so any other recommendations much appreciated!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      December 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks. If you’re after another long book then I’m currently reading ‘New York’ by Edward Rutherford, a story about the history of the city told through generations of one family. Really enjoying it but it’s even bigger than Shantaram at 1000 pages so probably not one if you’re trying to travel light!

  • Reply
    Reviewed: Bali Hotel Pearl, Legian | On the Luce
    April 9, 2013 at 4:28 am

    […] This is the first of a new Reviewed series, where I share some of the best and most interesting accommodation I’ve found in on my travels. You won’t find any five-star chain hotels here, but instead I look for hidden gems which are good value, individual and give a touch of luxury on a budget. And first up is the Bali Hotel Pearl, near the coast at Legian in Bali. After the long flight from the UK I was looking for somewhere peaceful to relax and get over the jetlag for a few days. The stretch of beach from Kuta to Seminyak is home to bewildering range of hotels of all sizes and price ranges. I wanted to be near enough to the beach and restaurants but away from the noise, and the Pearl drew me in with its photos of flower-filled gardens and a pool and balcony that were perfect for retreating to and lazing on with a book. […]

  • Reply
    travellingandhappiness
    October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am

    The book sounds reaaally good! My big dream is to visit India, maybe this dream will come true next year. But now Iam going to visit South East Asie and Iam so excited! 🙂 Visit my blog travellingandhappiness.wordpress.com

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