When his older brother asks him if he is gay, Jacques is first stunned by the question.
Soon after he's come out, Jacques leaves behind the idyllic island of Mauritius, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
First stop Paris, where he lives grandly for a time, before his life takes a twist and he finds himself squatting in a less salubrious part of the French capital.
Next stop Cyprus, where Jacques reinvents himself as a teacher. He then survives war-torn Lebanon, and heeds the counsel of a generous Australian benefactor who encourages him to make Sydney his next destination.
There, things don't go according to script. And before long Jacques is confronted by numerous setbacks. But he is resolute, and manages to overcome adversity, eventually finds true love, and ends up in the most livable city in the world.
This is a poignant story of resilience and hope. Jacques' narrative in this autobiographical novel is simple and powerful. Despite the challenges, he finds fulfillment, happiness and success, living the life he wanted.
CHAPTER ONE - A BRITISH CITIZEN
My parents were on a six-month overseas trip – their
first ever. They'd decided to go ahead with it, despite my mum, Mamie, being
heavily pregnant. When asked whether she was worried about undertaking such a
long journey, Mamie told her close relatives: “I'll probably get better
hospital care in England”, brushing off their reservations.
They sailed on m.v Pierre Loti from Port Louis, the
Mauritian capital and port city, first to Madagascar, and up the then
pirate-less East African Coast, through the Suez Canal and onto Marseille.
After about a month, they reached their destination - London. Where my uncle
I was already on the move.
I was born at Saint Thomas Hospital, Westminster in
1955. Just across from Big Ben.
Mamie refused to see me for the first few days when
the hospital staff told her it was a boy. She'd been longing for a little
sister for my brother. She'd refused to contemplate this nascent possibility,
and hadn't given much time and thought to choosing a boy's name.
Much later, I found out that during the passenger
liner's two-day stopover in the Madagascar port of Tamatave (now renamed
Toamasina), my parents had been hosted by Mamie's cousin. Jeanne was expecting
her second child, whom she'd decided to name Jacques.
I was baptised in London, and soon after, we made our
long journey back to the homeland. Little did the bundle that I was, nor my
parents, know how determining and precious that faraway birth would turn out to
be, and how much it would shape my future.
By virtue of my birth in London, I was granted British
citizenship, and obtained a British passport that my dad, Papi, was very keen
for me to get when I was still a minor.
When asked by the British consular authorities, he
said authoritatively: “My son will be travelling on his own, and he needs a
When I reached the majority age of twenty-one in
Mauritius, that by now had gained its independence from Great Britain, by law I
had to choose between my British nationality and a Mauritian one.
I opted for the former.
I was always conscious that my birth certificate
looked different from that of my fellow classmates; it was a much longer and
larger document when compared to its Mauritian equivalent, and it had big red
markings. It stood me aside when we had to present the document at school, the
sort of attention I didn't particularly enjoy at the time.
Sometimes, when my friends saw me coming, they'd
say dismissively: “Here comes the
”. The term means a pseudo Englishman, someone not
having the physical features of what was then regarded to be those of a 'real'
English person. The term, not a really pejorative one, is sourced in the French
language. It reflected in an ironic sort of way that, though I was British on
paper, my schoolmates didn't consider me to be of that ilk. Neither did I for