If you had spent any time lately watching any of the mainstream news, it is easy to begin viewing the world as a diabolical, scary place, occupied by either victims or perpetrators.
However, not everyone ascribes to the mainstream media’s view. The recently released audio version of Sam Manicom’s Under Asian Skies provides one of the best alternatives.
The book is a sequence to Manicom’s debut travelogue, Into Africa, and picks up right where Into Africa left off. After spending a year as a relatively new motorcyclist touring the African continent, Manicom and his trusted companion, BMW R80GS motorcycle, known as Libby, take a cargo ship to Australia and then travel together from Asia to Europe. It would be an understatement to say that a lifetime worth of adventures and a few misadventures ensue. To name a few, there is an encounter with an Australian Hells’ Angel; a no less scary run-in with maddening Indian bureaucracy; smuggling of tractor parts into Iran on an ancient Setra bus; rides through world’s most breathtaking and most dangerous roads (with little distinction between the two); and sharing harrowing train rides with hundreds of strangers, crammed by a stroke of fate into the same rail car. There is even a love story to boot and many encounters with generosity, kindness and raw beauty of the universe.
Through his adventures Manicom does not wear paisley colored lenses. Far from it! Whether he chronicles back-breaking work of fruit picking in Australia or relays the frustration of dealing with the Indian port officials, who work with all the efficiency, enthusiasm and philosophical detachment of a turtle out in a mid-day sun, Manicom spares no color in painting a real picture of what he sees. Yet, he is also careful to place the picture in a proper historical, social and cultural context, thus removing the gaudy frame of judgment and arrogance so prevalent in the reporting of many of the “traditional” information sources.
What distinguishes Under Asian Skies from myriad of other travelogues is the sense of compassion towards all living beings; acceptance of the world without a grain of self-righteousness; and deep gratitude for the opportunity to experience the universe just the way it is. These qualities are especially evident in the audio version of the book, read by the author, where Manicom’s enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and basic humanity really shine through. In fact, while Manicom is clearly not a voice actor, it is impossible to imagine anyone but the author reading this book.
And, because Manicom not only describes what he sees, but makes an attempt to understand it, what emerges is a narrative of a world far different from the one seen on the evening news. The World according to Sam Maincom is colorful, complex and beautiful. Like his book, it is a multidimensional and rich tapestry, woven together by the experiences, joys, sorrows and extraordinary adventures of ordinary folk. What a joy it is to be a part of this World!