Lindsay arrives in Mumbai with a fake passport. He is an escaped Australian convict who was in the middle of a long term in prison for armed robbery. Lindsay does not plan to stay in India. He has carefully planned to proceed on to Germany. While he is taking in the sights of Mumbai, he befriends a guide named Prabaker. Lindsay then decides to stay on in Mumbai. Prabaker takes Lin to his home in a nearby village. Prabaker’s mother likes the quiet guest and she gives him the name Shantaram, which means A Man of Peace.
Lin and Prabaker return to the city, but are robbed on the way. With no money left, Lin decides to settle down in the slums of Mumbai. He discovers the sleazy areas of the city with Prabaker as his guide, and discovers the hidden face of Mumbai, which is inhabited by a confusing milieu of gangsters, holy men, prostitutes, beggars, actors, and soldiers. He opens an illegal medical clinic to help the slum inhabitants get medical supplies. He lands small parts in Bollywood movies and also starts working for the Mumbai underworld. His gangster boss, Abdel Khader Khan, becomes a sort of mentor and protector for Lin. He escapes a long term in prison because of Khader Khan’s protection, and goes to Africa and Afghanistan on missions for him.
He falls in love with an attractive Swiss-American expatriate Karla, who is enigmatic and does not allow him to get close. After the death of Khader Khan, Lin realises that his real identity is lost. He settles down in his new home and tries to find the meaning and purpose of life and love in the strange melting pot of Mumbai.Shantaram is the story of a man who tries to escape his past, only to get more deeply pulled into the world of crime and violence that he sought to escape.