Thursday, 25 June 2015

BLOG TOUR - In The Land Of Shiva by Jim O'Hara

Author Bio:

Born in Milwaukee, WI, at age 18 O’Hara joined the Catholic order of Brothers who taught at his high school. As a Brother for almost 30 years, O’Hara taught math at both the secondary and college levels, and in his late ‘30s volunteered to travel to India to establish a branch of his religious order there. After seven years in India and Nepal, he returned to the States, left the Brothers, and became a massage therapist and massage instructor. In addition to doing bodywork, he has also become a certified dream worker. He makes his home in Berkeley, CA. His time in India and Nepal took him from immersion in religion to a place “beyond religion.”

Author Links -

Book Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Leandros Publishing
Release Date: June 10, 2014

Buy Link(s)

Book Description
When Brother Jim leaves his comfortable life teaching in Catholic high schools and travels to India, he finds himself unprepared for the challenges he faces.

His assigned task is to start his religious order in that country, but as he immerses himself in a land of unfamiliar customs and ancient religious traditions, he soon discovers that his mission has become deeply personal. Brother Jim questions not only all his vows, but his deepest beliefs.
As he travels across India and encounters holy men, thieves, rabid monkeys, and genuinely good-hearted people of all backgrounds, he realizes that the religion of his upbringing is but one of many paths to spirituality, and a sometimes oppressive one at that. On the eve of celebrating twenty-five years as a brother, Jim must decide what he truly holds as important and how he wants to live the rest of his life.

India and Nepal, with all their clamor, fascination, and surprises, come alive on every page in this unusual memoir set in the ‘80s.


Chapter: Monkey Business
Context: Bro Jim has been bitten by a monkey at a train station in South India.
“Your wound has become seriously infected. This is why you have a fever.” The emergency room doctor stood over me and explained the situation bluntly. “I shall admit you immediately and begin a course of antibiotics. We don’t want you to lose your leg.”
Lose my leg? My heart pounded painfully in my chest. Was the infection that bad? Had gangrene set in? I looked at the doctor and lone nurse that attended him. If the infection was serious, shouldn’t there be a whole team of physicians and nurses hovering nearby holding trays of bandages and clamps and antibiotics and narcotics? Where was everybody?
For the next several days I lay restlessly in my bed at St. John’s, a teaching hospital reputed to be the best in town. In the mornings, a doctor led a group of interns on their daily rounds, discussing each patient’s condition. The training was conducted in English, and since most patients didn’t understand that language, doctors and interns felt free to make candid remarks in front of the patient. Each morning I was the nine o’clock lesson.
“I want everybody to touch the red area near Mr. James’s wound,” Dr. Gopal said to his interns. “You see how hard the tissue is? That means that the antibiotics are not working. Perhaps we shall try some other sulfa drug.”
Perhaps? He’s saying it might be a good idea to try something else?
The interns poked, without protective gloves, on the back of my thigh.
“Excuse me,” I said, turning to look directly at Dr. Gopal. “From now on, I want to be informed personally about my progress. And I want to know your plan for treatment of possible rabies. Nobody has mentioned that yet.”
“Rabies?” Dr. Gopal glanced toward me, surprised that a patient should have questions. “I doubt that will be a problem. We are not certain the monkey bit you. The wound may be from his claw.” He turned away. “Now students, continue the rounds on your own and leave your reports in my office. Good day.”
Three interns remained behind and plied me with questions, but not about my well-being.
“Is it true that doctors are the richest people in America?”
“Do you know a hospital that is needing more doctors?”
“I hear that only wealthy people can obtain hospital care in the United States. Is it correct?”
I responded to their questions in short sentences, trying not to tire myself out any more than the fever already had. My leg had begun throbbing again with an added feeling of sharp pain. I was convinced the monkey had left several teeth in my leg. And my anxiety was rising—I could not stop thinking about rabies.
 “If you don’t mind,” said a young intern named Sanjay, “I shall return to speak with you this afternoon. We are completely bored because there is hardly anybody in the hospital.” Sanjay explained why. The movie Coma had come to town two weeks earlier, and people were staying out of the hospital for fear that their organs might be stolen.

Blog Post

Why write a memoir if I’m not famous? Will anyone read it?

You write a memoir primarily for yourself. Unless you indeed are a celebrity or can write a chilling account of a famous disaster that you survived. Then you are writing for the public and for that fat advance check you received from one of the Big Five.

I had no intention of writing a memoir when I began to put on paper the stories that eventually became In The Land Of Shiva – A Memoir. The seven years that I had spent in India and Nepal seemed the most colorful of my life and I did not want to forget those striking Asian images or minor adventures I had experienced.

So I happily recorded whatever I could call up from the recesses of my mind or what was preserved in my letters and photos. I say “happily” until the day a writing coach told me what was missing. Me. How had those years affected my life on a deep level? Sure, the story of being bitten by a monkey and cared for in an Indian hospital was interesting, but what happened to my outlook on life as a result of that?  How did trekking to the Tibetan border change anything for me? And if it didn’t cause some shift in me then it didn’t belong in the book. I took to heart what the writing coach said and found the real me behind the stories.

So, to more fully answer the question, we write a memoir for the opportunity it gives us to examine our life and make sense of its seemingly disparate pieces. And if we don’t consciously know the “arc” of our life or of a given period of time, it will present itself to us in the totality of the written word—if we have been honest. To paraphrase Tobias Wolff, a person’s real life is nothing but the sum total of the small stories experienced over years and years, given meaning and integration through soulful reflection.

And if you want your memoir to be widely read, you need two key things: an “angle” and serious marketing.

You may not have been raised by wolves or an Auntie Mame guardian, but what is unusual in your life, or at least in part of your life? “An African Childhood” is the subtitle of one person’s memoir, quite successful in part because it has an angle. Yours might be growing up in a bilingual household, or teaching a number of years in an inner city school. Find your angle.

Marketing – that is another story for another day.

James O’Hara