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.
The Boatman is an intense and intimate exploration of city life as we don’t often know it. Revealing his love affair for India and his deep attraction for its young men, John’s 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.
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.
“A charming account of an unspoken side of life in India in the eighties told from a unique perspective. Instead of coming out to his mother, Burbidge comes out to India.” – Mahesh Dattani