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Not ever having experienced any aspect of gay life in India I found this book to be a compelling journey of a young man exploring many aspects of his life – not just the gay side of it. It is written so vividly that I could truly almost smell the street vendors and became totally embroiled in the author’s adventures. It is hard enough coming out in a Western society but to have done so in India took great personal courage! I almost felt that I had been to India after I had finished the book. A lot of the book is very sexual but written in a very truthful and at time I found deeply moving manner – not to mention some of the more quite terrifying aspects! The author’s relationship with his mother was particularly touching. I found I had to read it in one reading because I became totally involved from the first page to the last!
A great read–difficult to put down because of the writer’s honesty and fast-moving writing style. The story of a gay man living in India and discovering his sexuality is interesting in itself, but I also appreciated the inclusion of his mother and their relationship, as well as the interactions with his work colleagues. No matter one’s sexuality, s/he can relate to this book because of the basic yet intertwining themes and emotions that we humans all experience.
Reading John’s expressive depictions in The Boatman took me on a journey firstly as an Australian working in an international NGO in India, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, meeting and interacting with Indian personalities and Indian culture. Secondly it took me into the very personal experience of a young man changing his worldview from an understanding that nice, Christian men, working for an NGO would not be homosexual to not only recognising that he is homosexual but discovering an extensive sub-culture of homosexuality in India. He was on a steep learning curve as he tried to navigate between his demanding work life in conventional India and his wonder and excitement in an unknown sub-culture. His openness to new experiences was frightening as I recognised that he was surfing this scene only minutes before AIDS did. His escape from dangerous situations left my heart palpitating. A great read.
Sharing the same childhood origins as Burbidge, I was interested to see how a differently sexually orientated person had to leave Australia at that time to assume his adult identity. His writing is taut and lively and the reader enters into his skin as he crosses his Rubicon and movingly negotiates unknown terrain without any guidelines.
The Boatman chronicles a story of coming out. What makes this chronicle so unique is that it tells the story of an Australian coming out in the many cultures that represent India. He adeptly straddles the culture of a non-profit closely-knit organization and the new sometimes dangerous and various cultures of India. At every turn, we urge him on, hoping that he will not only survive the occasional physical dangers but also that he will survive this courageous journey of becoming true to who he really is. Cry and laugh with John Burbridge. You will gain courage for our own journey–whatever it is.
Loved it – very evocative and quite compelling!
When someone like Mrs. Sudha Murty sets out to write short stories that are semi autobiographical in nature, it is bound to take its readers on a journey of learning and wisdom.