Shantaram is the story of its author Gregory David Roberts - convicted for Armed Robbery in Australia, escaped from a high security prison, landing up in Bombay in a fake passport, living in a slum, arrested by Indian police, becoming part of the local underworld. But more importantly it is the story of Bombay. This is the best novel about any city I have read so far. (I haven't read Suketu Mehta's Maximum City yet).
Roberts has a marvellous eye for detail. Even the minute things don't escape him. The detailing is interesting, but also makes the book heavy - it is about 900 pages. But the story is told straight from the heart, and it is a bloody marvellous story. He doesn't get judgemental, treats all characters with respect. He tells the story as it is. His writing brings Bombay alive, throbbing with life. If only some one could write such a story about Chennai.