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The six years John Burbidge spent in India as a community development worker changed him in many ways, but one stands out from all the rest. It led him to confront a deeply personal secret—his attraction to his own sex. After taking the plunge with masseurs on a Bombay beach, he found himself on a rollercoaster ride of sexual adventuring. A complicating factor in his journey of self-discovery was the tightly knit community in which he lived and worked, with its highly regimented schedule and minimal privacy that forced him to live a double life.
Written with passion, integrity and humour, The Boatman is packed with incident, anecdote, adventure and above all, real and memorable people. Burbidge takes hold of India as few have done before, deftly interweaving the search for selfhood with an intimate exploration of Indian life and society. His story shows us how, when we dare to immerse ourselves in a culture radically different from our own, we may discover parts of ourselves we never knew existed.
Burbridge has said of the genesis of this book : ''Growing up in Australia in the 1950s and 60s in a respectable, conservative environment, I never came to terms with my homosexuality. And my early adult years living in a tightly knit religious-based community in Australia and North America only prolonged that experience. It took my time in India to allow that to happen. In a sense, writing The Boatman was my way of thanking India for giving me this gift, along with many others it bestowed upon me. For that, I will be forever grateful.''
Author: John Burbidge.
Paperback, 272 pages, 2015.