My home is on the road. The reason I know this is that I only feel at home when I am moving and only feel in my element when I am navigating long distances. So much so, that even though I have been somewhat settled for the last few years, it still feels as though we are only temporarily playing house and that we will again spend months and maybe even years in far lands.
My father is Asian, I was born in Europe ....lived in a few countries... I just never felt I permanently belonged anywhere. I enjoy the high energy vibe of big cities as much as I enjoyed being stuck in the middle of nowhere in Africa for two months....
But back to reading books. A few years ago, in the Kuala Lumpur Malaysia airport I wandered into a bookstore, took a random book off a shelf and opened it on the first page. It read:
"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you've got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life."
I told you I was a sucker for good writing, and that page sucked me right in. But as I don't read on the plane I didn't buy the book. I never even looked at the cover or checked who wrote it. And years later, when I decided to look it up I didn't have a title or an author, but almost word for word I did remember that first paragraph. I found out the book is called Shantaram and is written by Gregory David Roberts.
Mr. Roberts isn't your ordinary guy. A convicted bank robber, who escaped maximum security prison in broad daylight, only to spend the next 10 years of his life in the slums of Mumbai working for the local mob. In a weird way, I am fascinated by how Roberts, after decades of being a low life criminal decided to break the vicious cycle of self-degradation by coming clean (after escaping again he decided to pay his debt to society and smuggled himself back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence) and restoring his self-respect.
I never read Shantaram, except for that one page of the almost 1,000-page book I held in my hand at the KL airport. I am saving it for when I am old and have a lot of time on my hands, living in a beach hut in Tahiti or somewhere in Morocco or in some old cabin up in the woods and feel the need to escape.