Kurtz recounts the events of a journey he made to India in hopes of finding spiritual enlightenment and a sense of purpose.
After arriving in Mumbai, Kurtz planned to attend a meditation retreat, but beyond that, he left his itinerary up to the provenance of spiritual discovery. What he found when he left the airport were duplicitous cabdrivers and child beggars who were part of a money-laundering scheme. Readers may question Kurtz’s guidance; after all, we’re seeing everything from the perspective of a bored white, young American and without much nodding to the effects of colonialism or how the West continues to affect India’s socioeconomic structure. The gentleness of Kurtz’s narrative, however, may alleviate any initial misgivings. At the meditation center, he met Dr. Rama Mad Mahi and Niranjan, both from Nasik, who were also seeking to add spiritual calm to their lives. Along with Tarun, who came from South Africa to India to discover his roots, Kurtz followed Dr. Mahi and Niranjan back to their hometown. Kurtz discovered details of Niranjan’s life that turned his initial suspicions about the young man into admiration. The theme of interaction figures prominently here, and Kurtz delves into his own failures when it comes to forming connections. This occasionally leads to the inclusion of conversational minutia, as when an argument with Tarun over a hotel room allows Kurtz to realize he’s finally standing up for himself. Kurtz rounds out his journey with a visit to a community of Tibetan monks and refugees, but it’s the final section of the book, Kurtz’s volunteer service at the Mother Teresa Mission in Kolkata, that gives his spiritual musings gravitas. Contrasted with frank descriptions of death and disease among Kolkata’s impoverished people, Kurtz learned to overcome his revulsion and ensured that their last days were filled with dignity, compassion and joy. The final moment of spiritual transcendence is wholly earned.
A sincere message of hope and compassion delivered against a backdrop of extreme poverty.