Holy Cow, A book review of sorts..


I had seen a book when I went to check out a new book shop which had opened next to our office, It had a picture of lord Shiva on it, and a catchy title “Holy cow”.

I was in a hurry so didn’t get to read the back of the book, and totally forgot about the book. Suddenly one day after lunch, just impulsively went to the shop and bought the book.

“Holy Cow” by an Aussie “Sarah Macdonald” is sort of a travelogue of her partly spiritual journey , partly memoir of her stay in India, Its full of sarcasms and dry wit. I am really not used to such literature, and I think most Indians are not so used to such kind of writing, and it can easily be misunderstood to be offensive. Infact in many places, I did find it offensive to various religions and country India, and again even the choice of words are a little out of norm within India. But on the whole I liked reading this book, a different sort of writing, and also It gave me many starters about various religions for me to search the internet.

Here are some memories about the book.

Sarah talking about Indian romance says “India is in love with the idea of romance. On the television men woo women with soppy songs, flowers, teddy bears and heart shaped balloons, or shed teeming tears of unrequited love and then there’s reality. Dutiful sons and daughters do not fall in love and marry without their parent’s blessing.

Isn’t this a reality with many romances across the world not just India?, I am talking about falling in love with the idea of romance, I think we are all a touch of guilty with this. As far as television goes, I never realized how country’s television can give such a wrong picture of it, 75% of people who watch Baywatch think that miami is full of woman dressed in revealing bikinis waiting to do CPR for any tom dick and harry. Any person who watches the soaps on Indian television might expect us to break out into song sequences every time we get attracted to a girl in public.
Coming to the dutiful part of sons and daughters, I think its too complex to understand the pros and cons of such an arranged marriage, and an year stay in India may not be really enough.

Ever since I read this book one thing which has kind of fascinated me is the Buddhist practice of Vipassana, it’s an ancient meditation technique, I really want to take this up someday soon, you can read much more about the technique here
Sarah talks about hardships she faced when she attends a ten day workshop on vipassana where she is not allowed to talk to any other person.
Perhaps I am going mad, or perhaps the realization of my craving and negativity is making me happy. Accepting suffering doesn’t have to be pessimistic, The only way is up..for me and you now”.. Isn’t that a great mantra?

Sarah talks about this feeling once she comes out of the ten day workshop
For the first time in my life I am living in the moment, I no longer miss my job, perhaps because my need for outward success to feed the ego has diminished.

At times the author does not get in terms with India and its people, when she does not seem to understand she states “It was full of foreigner attempting to figure out India. I’m beginning to think it’s pointless to try. India is beyond a statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It’s rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly but beautiful, and smart and stupid. It’s all the extremes, India defies understanding, and for once, for me it’s okay.

It continues Sarah’s tryst with various Indian religions, including Zoroastrianism. Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Jainism and so on, she does have a encounter with spiritual guru’s “amma” and Sai baba, and also gets to participate in kumbh mela. I liked her tryst with daily life in India, In delhi and also her interaction with both localities, and NRI, giving a rich and varied experiences to the reader.

A good read.

The cover of this book is slightly misleading, my dad seeing the book asked me what happened, why are you getting obsessed with mythology? 🙂

[Well I can’t blame him, I do keep visiting a book on Mahabaratha very often]


12 responses »

  1. greeeeaat..this book somehow sounds like ‘Made for me’ book…will defntly check out this very soon..btw nice insight into the content here in this post.Thanks boss..!!!

    Suriya..do let me know how you liked the book 🙂

  2. sounds interesting though, I hope I don’t get bored…i’ve been into this India stuff….just done a half way thru of William Dalrymple’s ‘the last moghul’

    but shall read this….and in any case…each city has its own tale..why worry about larger spaces..

    Haven’t read “the last moghul”, how did you like it?

  3. Sounds fascinating. I think it speaks more of the author than of your country. As many of my instructors say, “You use too much of your own opinion!” Glad you enjoyed it. A good book is always worth the time.

    Autumn, I like opinionated authors, most of them are very passionate about their work ..

  4. Hm, well the fact that she’s Australian might explain some of the wit. Aussie humor takes a bit to get used to-a lot of it is tongue in cheek and could be viewed as offensive unless you are used to it.

    Silver..I think you’re right, her humor was slightly different to american humor, which I have got used to..

  5. i believe people are basically the same… cultures may groom them to be different,, but in the most basic of human cravings,, they are the same…

    hmm paisley..may be you are right..but sometimes we cannot ignore the strong influence though

  6. sounds interesting. will check out the next time I raid the bookstore. 😀

    sure, do let me know if you like the book

  7. Rambler: This book has been out a few years so I am surprised it took so long to make it to India’s book stores. Or is it that it took so long to make its way to you? 🙂

    You are right about the author’s humour and wit, which as SilverNeurotic observes may be hard to ‘get’ for some. Humour almost invariably derives from another person’s misfortune or peculiarity.

    But as I have noted a few times earlier in the blogosphere – and the charging masses that follow ironically confirm it – Indians are only too ready to take offence at anything and everything. Now when I visit after long intervals, I notice even more of those people who are somehow inspired to live their daily lives by Robert de Niro’s “You lookin’ at me?”. It is scary and hilarious at the same time, also pathetic in some measure.

    I am glad you read this book because books about India, written by non-Indians are amongst my preferred types of reading too. Most of them are insightful (Octavio Paz’s “In Light of India”) and some, such as this one, are mere observations but can be read as light, airport waiting time fodder.

    Unless we understand how others see or interpret us, we cannot begin to understand much about interpersonal behaviours and the signals we send. Being understood is at the basis of all quest for perfect communication and social harmony (look up the Johari window if my ramble is confusing) or I could cite the old Animals refrain:

    But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good,
    Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

    Shefaly, I am sure it would be out on the stands from long time, just that it caught my eye late 🙂
    I am not so sure about the offensive part about the Indians, I have noticed we getting offended easily, but so is the case with americans and even countries like china and japan.
    I haven’t read many books about India, and especially none of the travelgues within India..so this was a very good change
    How people interepret us, guess it can be debated both the ways, should we really worry about how we are intrepreted? or should we be more concerned about what we make of ourselves

  8. That winking smiley is not intended, just some characters garbled. There is nothing remotely ‘winkey’ about that part of the comment 🙂

    ha ha looks like the winking happened subconsiously 🙂

  9. When I first saw the title of your blog, I was thinking what exactly the blog contains.It seems intersting. I heard like you said they mostly cover sarcastic and misbehavior done by Indians. Even on Xanga I saw many pople have written bad about India and I can’t digest it. I don’t like to read these types of books. But I feel this one seems to be good one. My (everyone’s too) God looks nice with goggles. Love you God!

    Hope you are doing great! Bless You ~Namaste~ Nidhi

    Hey Nidhi…long time no see…i wouldn’t say its writes bad. nor can I say it talks about good in India..It’s just the authors view about India..meant to be read with a sense of humor I suppose 🙂

  10. Rambler:

    “How people interepret us, guess it can be debated both the ways, should we really worry about how we are intrepreted? or should we be more concerned about what we make of ourselves”

    I pre-empted your comment by suggesting “look up Johari window”. 🙂

    And yes, until we understand how others see us, we will probably always engage sub-optimally with the world around us. This understanding of others’ interpretation of us however does not preclude being or understanding that being. And “understand” does not always mean “worry” unless worrisome things emerge.

    hmm understanding gives a meaning off slightly cool passionless knowing of work..where as worrying is more symbolic of caring a little more.. 🙂

  11. hmm … i have never read a travelougue … but i have seen far too many of those tv travel shows .. with travellers documenting india on camera ..
    and to say the least i havent always liked what they have said ..
    no body likes it when anything bad it said about his/her country

    being a traveller means accepting different cultures diffrent practices. teh ugliness and the beauty which come along with the new country experience is a package …

    but in the end its her opinion in her book .. which i totally appreciate !

    though i loved the cover of the book !!!!!!

    BB..the whole book is about that, finding out whats different, and accepting it, even though complaining a little, isn’t that natural too?

  12. i never even heard about such a book 😀

    and i have never read any either!! i dnt knw.. if i shud read it kinds!

    how many pages in sense… how big is it?!

    i just dnt wanna be unhappy if i dnt like it u knw.. but i want to giv it a try!

    Its not very big..may be you could try

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