Everyone who goes and lives abroad...begins to discover aspects of themselves, different ways of behaving that probably they weren’t aware of when they were at home in their own countries.

Roland Joffé, director of The Killing Fields and The Mission


The Boatman was published by Yoda Press in New Delhi, India, in February 2014 for sale in South Asia, Europe and the UK. A second edition, which also contains an afterword, was published by Transit Lounge, Melbourne, Australia, in March 2015 for the Australasian and North American markets. It is available in both paperback and as an e-book. See the following pages for details of each edition.

A memoir


Written with passion, integrity and humor, 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 fo 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.

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. 


An engrossing, often disturbing, story, grippingly told. It is both every gay man’s story and unlike any you’ve ever read.

                        Robert Dessaix

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.

                       Ashok Row Kavi

  • Taking the Plunge10:16