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Holy Cow – Sarah Macdonald

February 3, 2006

holy-cow.jpgThe book left me with mixed feelings – some enlightenment, some bitterness and some indifference.

There were things I did not know about India before reading this.

The author, points out contradictions in India and its people. She gets a tad too harsh when putting across not so nice things about India. Half way thru the book, I was a little angry – it felt like I was reading the diary of a frustrated, lonely soul. By the end of the book, you begin to empathize with the lady.

The book is by an Australian journalist – her experience when visiting India. This is a mix of a diary and a travelogue. She describes her meetings with different communities, people and places, her thoughts and reactions to these things. Then, she compares these with things back home at Australia. She visits lots of places – Dharamshala, srinagar, Amritsar, Bombay, Kerla, Velankanni, Pondicherry, Kumbh mela, etc. and comes across ppl from different communities – Budhhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc. I myself have not traveled so much within India, so – it was interesting.

Now, this is not a book that one must surely read – it was ok – partly ‘coz I read this after reading The pavilion of Woman – an awesome work.

You can give this a miss unless you have nothing better than Sidney Sheldon to read.

A two point five on five.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Miriam Kaplan permalink
    July 16, 2007 4:42 am

    I thought this was an extremely well-written, humorous account of the author’s experiences in India. I think after experiencing the difficult living conditions, illnesses & the overly solicitous way that foreigners are treated, that her book was a fascinating account of her observations, of course from her (Western-influenced) Australian perspective. I know Indians who have migrated to the United States – a Ph.D in Political Science & her husband, a University Professor, who are always afraid (for their and their children’s health) to return to Mother India for even relatively short visits to their families, and I know for certain that they would not put even a toe into the Ganges.

    Is it really prejudice to acknowledge that the Ganges River is a polluted, bacteria-ridden body of water, where the possibility of contracting hepatitis is very real? Why is that any more prejudiced than acknowledging that the Katrina-flooded areas of New Orleans were unsafe to drink or bathe in? I guess because no one (no country) is going to step in to make an effort to see that this River gets cleaned up! No one is going to educate the Indian public about more sanitary means of disposing of their dead. Does religion that thinks more highly of the dead than of the living really have much of a chance of surviving? I don’t think this is prejudice. I think this is the unfortunate plight of a nation that because of extreme poverty has been held back and is unaware of various health hazards. Maybe this is not prejudice, maybe this is a humorous account of a terribly dangerous and complex situation – maybe the humor is necessary to sugarcoat the harsher realities that Sarah MdDonald is bringing to the forefront, and rather than jump down her throat and label her “prejudiced” because she is Caucasian, we should start to think about the extreme difficulties the Indian people face. Without her humor, how many of us would want to read how awful the living conditions of many of the Indian people?! Not everyone wants to read “City of Joy” (informative though it was), and not everyone would watch footage or read accounts of Mother Teresa helping the lepers, but a humorously written book will draw readers and make people aware of the plight of India. Kudos to Sarah for doing this, aside from showing her wry wit in telling her personal story. If you are so shallow that you prefer Sidney Sheldon then you cannot accept the experiences of anyone other than yourself, and you wish to read filth and nonsense and blind yourself to some very unfortunate and sad truths. There is nothing about mixing humor with this – doctors and nurses do this all the time when they deal with ill people (it’s referred to as “black humor” [no racial connotation]) and it helps them deal with tragic circumstances. Why don’t you go contemplate your navel and get a little more introspective!!!

  2. July 23, 2007 3:14 pm

    I write from the perspective of an Indian who is living in India. In my opinion, most of the book is one-sided. It only mentions a few problems. It does not go deeper into them and find out if they really are problems and if they are, what causes them. In short, the picture portrayed did not seem accurate to me.

    I agree that the river Ganges is polluted and cremating the dead in Ganges is dangerous. However, a few educated people understand it and refrain from it. Cremation is a highly religious thing among the Hindus and religion is a delicate topic in India. Infact, hundreds of Hindu Priests take a holy dip in Ganges everyday. Perhaps, it has to do with your immune system as well. But the point is, there are bigger issues to be addressed.

    In my defense, I never labeled Sarah “prejudiced” or called “sidney sheldon” better. Please refer back to the review. Sidney Sheldon is shallow and so would this book be – if it claims to be a true account of the state of India.

  3. Baba permalink
    August 2, 2007 3:11 am

    I haven’t read the book, and hence no comments on the book per se. As an Indian living in the States, I too am sometimes gets terrified just before the annual trip to India. Sometimes I feel that the change in the life style (post liberalization) has brought in new diseases etc. I’d never heard of dengue fever or chikun guniya in places like Kerala, but now they are rampant. This is not India-bashing, just how I feel.

    BTW, it is ‘Kerala’ рџ™‚

  4. August 13, 2007 7:41 pm

    Change in life style bringing in new diseases? Not sure what you are talking about.

    Yes, there have been epidemics – chikun guniya, dengue, etc of late but that could happen anywhere.

    I’m not denying that America is perhaps a much better place to live in. At the same time, surely India is not a place one (especially an Indian) should be terrified of.

  5. August 26, 2008 8:51 pm

    I loved the book so much!
    I just finished it about 10minutes ago
    I am English, live in England… I want to visit India SOOO MUCH NOW!!
    xoxoxo

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