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]