Two neat stacks of a red-and-blue novel sit upon the counter in front of Bernard Coelho, the harried manager of Colaba’s Leopold Cafe. Leopold’s—as the 30-year-old cafe is affectionately known by locals and tourists alike—owes its renewed fame to an Australian convict with flowing blonde hair whose almost 1,000-page novel is now an international literary sensation.
"We sell autographed copies of Shantaram," says Coelho proudly, opening up the first page. In the flowing, expansive handwriting of author Gregory David Roberts, who based the book loosely upon his eight years in Mumbai in the ‘80s, the message reads: "Love the truth you find in the hearts of others, and always listen to the love that speaks from your own heart."
Here, in the cool environs of Leopold’s, with its tiled floor and fast-whirring fans, tourists come, clutching their dog-eared
Shantaram copies, hoping for a glimpse of the cafe where the author spent so much of his time. They leave messages for 'Shantaram'—as Roberts is now known—tiny handwritten remarks, or visiting cards, even a telephone number on a small slip of paper. And then they step out, onto the busy Colaba Causeway, to see Mumbai his way.