I Am the Ocean by Samita Sarkar: a Book Review

29662916A recent graduate who is faced with major life decisions decides to go on a bus tour around the United States in hopes of finding the answers. She packs a copy of Bhagavad Gita and a small journal along with a few necessities. Then she takes off on a Greyhound bus and ventures into the American territory. She ends stopping in New York, Washington, Savannah, and Miami, exploring major landmarks in each city. In the meantime, she reads passages from the Hindu sacred book, makes journal entries, and ponders over her faith. In the end, she comes to realization that life isn’t always about running, and sometimes we don’t necessary get what we want.

Written from a vegan’s perspective, this memoir tackles some of the major issues pertaining to animal rights and modern meat industry. It also gives a scoop into Vedic (ancient Indian) views on the Mother Cow and other important Hindu traditions. I must admit that I am not a vegetarian, but my religion requires fasting from meat and dairy for very long periods through the year (sometimes, for more than forty days in a row). Alright, I do admit that although staying away from meat is no-brainer, but giving up dairy for a certain period of time can be rather challenging. I was able to relate to the narrator’s frantic attempts to find something meat-free on a journey. Quite honestly, I often struggle with trying to find healthy food when on the road, especially if a trip happens during Lent or some similar time of the year.

The narrator also shares a few stories on what it’s like for a woman to travel solo, from dealing with annoying passengers on the bus to surviving potentially dangerous situations, including the time she was approached by a group of boys in Miami. All in all, the story gives a sense of longing for adventure and may even inspire nostalgia if you’ve been to some of the places mentioned in the book. Although the tone is rather light, the travelogue addresses some of important themes including faith and spirituality, friendships and romantic interests, and daily life struggles. It makes you realize how much we all have in common despite our different backgrounds and walks of life.

What particularly drew me into the story is the narrator’s initial quest for stability and her eventual choice of a more spontaneous route. As former recent graduate, I could relate to the frustrations of job search, decisions about future, and occasional self-doubt. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking during the first time I read the story that yes, I’ve been there too, and I know what’s like to deal with life after graduation.

I picked the book again this last spring on a family trip to Miami. I actually read it backwards this time, starting with the last chapters on Miami during the stay in the city and going back to the beginning during the flight home. It brought me happy memories from the former trips to New York and Washington and a joy knowing that another human being a positive experience in travelling these places.

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