Study Guide

Gangsters in Shantaram

By Gregory David Roberts


Just like the slum, full of its heartwarming, generally good characters, Khaderbhai's crowd is also full of folks, even if they aren't quite as big on the Hallmark sentiments. They're a bunch of toughs, and we're just glad they're confined to the pages and not showing up on our doorstep in the night.

Although we wouldn't mind meeting Tariq, Khaderbhai's eleven-year-old nephew. He's a devout Muslim, brave in the face of a wild pack of snarling attack dogs, and also an all-around sweetie pie.

One of the more important G's is Nazeer, Khaderbhai's driver and friend. He's protective of the big man at first, and pretty suspicious of Lin, and the feeling is mutual: "I thought him ugly, then, when I first knew him, not so much for the unbeautiful set of his features as for their joylessness. It seemed to me that I'd never seen a human face in which the smile had been so utterly defeated" (2.15.167). They become close, though, over time.

Another important gangster is Abdul Ghani, but where Nazeer is loyal to the death, Ghani is the Judas who betrays Khaderbhai, tipping off the Pakistani police when Khader and his gang roll in to deliver arms to the Afghani fighters. First impressions don't seem to be Lin's specialty; he hated Nazeer at first and grew to love him, and check out what he thought of the traitor when they first meet:

Of all of them, only Abdul Ghani displayed any sense of humour, and only he laughed aloud. He was as familiar with younger men as he was with those senior to him. He sprawled in his place, where others sat. He interrupted or interjected when he pleased, and he ate more, drank more, and smoked more than any man in the room. He was especially, irreverently, affectionate with Khaderbhai, and it was certain that they were close friends. (2.14.105)

The moral of the story? The butler did it. No, wait—wrong story. It's never trust a wise guy. Anyway, it's a switcheroo, but we have to admit we didn't see it coming.

Another of Khaderbhai's faithful is Khaled Ansari, a Palestinian who is plagued by thoughts of revenge: "Khaled was an intriguing man, but there was anger—too much anger, perhaps—brooding in him" (2.14.105). Perhaps that rage is what makes him sympathetic to Habib Abdur Rahman, a schoolteacher who goes psychotic with rage after his family is murdered, taking it upon himself to torture and kill any Soviet, Soviet lookalike, or Soviet associate.

Lin gets especially close to Madjid Rhustem, an Iranian who runs the passport forging operation, along with Krishna & Villu, according to Lin the best forgers in the world. They teach him everything there is to know about the wonderful world of forgery, which comes in pretty handy for a guy who's on the international most wanted list.