Experiences that lie beyond
A review of What Lies Beyond, a travel memoir by Indian author Kynsléy Nazareth
Several years ago Indian Link featured Kynsléy Nazareth, a young Indian Catholic couch surfing around the world. Nazareth never had any plans to write a book and his writing had been restricted to his blog. Until now.
Nazareth writings have gone beyond cyberspace and into print, with his maiden book, aptly titled What Lies Beyond.
Nazareth’s experiences as an Indian backpacker travelling the world are refreshingly different from most travellers, as he makes off-beat observations and travels to places that many people don’t even know exist. What’s even more remarkable is Nazareth’s hunger to find parallel cultures around the world.
Brought up as a Goan-Mumbai Catholic boy in Western India, Nazareth admits, “I always felt like a fish out of water. Mainstream Indian cultures were a radical departure from what I saw and experienced in our Goan-Mumbai Catholic community.”
“I wouldn’t understand Hindi spoken out in larger India and my parents didn’t encourage me to make a better effort at learning the language. Their aim was to get me to simply pass in my Hindi exams. As long as I achieved this, I didn’t need to know more.”
Recalling a time when a young Nazareth received a mark of 43, eight marks above the minimum score, he says, “My parents were overjoyed with this minor achievement of mine. Then, there was Marathi to contend with.”
Nazareth’s family spoke English fluently at home and outside, and his parents justified this as it being the most widely spoken language in the world.
“This stood in contrast to the various Indian languages spoken on the street and elsewhere in India,” Nazareth says. “Back then, I was a quiet and shy child who never spoke his mind, but who was always secretly fascinated by what was going on around me.”
The author recalls how in 1980s India, Catholic women tended to wear dresses or blouses and skirts, whereas Hindu and Muslim women wore sarees, salwar kameez or burqas. “I wondered why my mother almost never wore traditional Indian clothing,” he shares.
Nazareth says he picked up a strong vibe of westernisation and affluence among Goan-Mumbai Catholics. With names predominantly of Portuguese or British origin, social gatherings where alcohol was permitted and lively evenings with adults playing the guitar and dancing the jive and waltz, he felt “a sense of wonder at the lack of gaiety and merry-making customs of the significantly larger and more traditional social landscape of India”.
“While I now know this sense of disdain was wrong, the differences were significant.”
As an adult, Nazareth went searching for answers, first to Portugal.
“I found many similarities between the Goan-Mumbai Catholic customs and the Portuguese. I also made many interesting discoveries regarding our Portuguese last names, and drew conclusions as to why the Goan-Mumbai Catholic community was different and essentially a parallel world to mainstream India.”
Nazareth’s What Lies Beyond canvasses all the fascinating and curious things of the world that you never knew even existed, all while travelling rough.
Nazareth understands that the best way to unearth the true culture of a place is to be open to the road. He lives with local people everywhere and hitchhikes to get from place to place, sometimes travelling with a cocktail of personalities. He does a stint at a farm, dives into dumpsters for his food and at one point, joins two other young men in asking local stores for free food.
He discovers a place where people meet with the intention of feeling sad together, even when there is no reason for their sadness. He even attends a wedding event where the bride is not present.
He discovers a baffling and gruesome underground world, some of which involves animal brothels in Germany. While in one place, two women broke out into a fight regarding who was taking him home, at another he was mistaken for being a paedophile!
The book has been a labour of love for Nazareth and he’s worked at it for around six years. He’s written about 31 countries, including India and Australia. He experienced several challenges during this time, including the death of his mother. Nevertheless, he kept chipping away at writing and completely gave up his social life over the past year to complete the book.
Nazareth has truly delighted many Indians by including Goan-Mumbai Catholic culture as one of the unique and curious cultures of the world. He has credited the almost-unheard-of community and vividly brought to life the many splendours of its heritage.
What Lies Beyond has been released globally so the stories of the community can be heard far and wide. After all, special experiences do lie beyond the everyday.