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Multimedia System The six years John Burbidge spent in India in the 1980s as a community development volunteer 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 that went from abstinence to addiction in two action-packed years. 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. There was also his fraught relationship with his mother. Written with honesty, passion and great personal integrity, The Boatman is a bold and fascinating account of the challenges, frustrations and fulfilment of finding love and selfhood in India. It is also an intense and intimate exploration of city life as we dont often know it. Revealing his love affair for India and his deep attraction for its young men, Johns 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.
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John Burbidge Australian-born John Burbidge has lived and worked in Belgium, Canada, India and the United States. For many years, he was communications director for an international NGO engaged in community and organizational development, before becoming an independent writer and editor. His articles on a variety of subjects have appeared in magazines, newspapers, periodicals and books in several countries. He has edited volumes on civil society, rural development and memoirs, and is the author of a biography of Australian writer, Gerald Glaskin. He lives with his husband in Washington State, USA.Review:
An engrossing, often disturbing, story, grippingly told. It is both every gay man's story and unlike any you've ever read.
Robert Dessaix, writer and critic
Burbidge's book is immensely educative and should be compulsory reading on how a foreigner discovers his true nature but returns home a very strong and confident man in charge of his life. The Boatman will surely take you across the Ganga.
Ashok Row Kavi, Hindustan Times
Touching, honest, and brave, The Boatman draws us irresistibly into an intense new world. Vivid descriptions and a heady pace never let the reader go. Dianne Highbridge, author of A Much Younger Man and In the Empire of Dreams
Unexpectedly contemporaneous, while still managing to evoke the ethos of a country in flux- the early profusion of exotica giving way to a more observed understanding of India. Vikram Phukan, TimeOut Mumbai
This tender story of naked lust and obsessive craving is as intoxicating as India itself. It made me want to return there. Benjamin Law, author of Gaysia and The Family Law
While most urban gay men in 80s India might have fantasized about going to explore their sexuality in the West, Burbidge stumbles upon the reverse journey, which he tells with great honesty. It would have been easier to write an exciting sexy book about a white man's adventures in India. This book is far more nuanced and is all the more touching for it.
Sandip Roy, Firstpost.com
Burbidge took shocking risks in exploring his homosexuality and found a capacity for the covert that both fascinated and appalled him. Along with his compassionate and respectful depiction of Indian street life and a hunger for discovery, this makes for a memorable read. Jen Banyard, author of Spider Lies and the Riddle Gully mystery series
A charming account of an unspoken side of life in Mumbai in the eighties. Its strength lies in its unique perspective. Instead of coming out to his mother, Burbidge seems to come out to India. Mahesh Dattani, playwright, director & actor
Those of us gay men who survived the eighties were all 'boatmen'. Burbidge's memoir allows us to remember and wonder. Jeremy Fisher, author of How to Tell Your Father to Drop Dead and Music From Another Country
For a country that still criminalises homosexuality, The Boatman chronicles its own cities that defy the law every night as spaces morph, people emerge and all types of liaisons are made and broken. Priyanka Kotamraju, The Hindu
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