Friday, March 03, 2006

Sarah Macdonald's Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure

I recently taught Sarah Macdonald's irreverent travel narrative, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure in my Travel Writers class. Though I'd been worried about how it would go over, Macdonald's book really seemed to click with my students. Her hip style and irreverence actually woke up some students who had, up to this point, seemed somewhat bored by our discussions of travel, colonialism, and the Indian diaspora.

Though I believe my students learned some things from the book overall, Macdonald does hit some off notes. For instance, take Macdonald's discussion of the eponymous cow, which follows a description of Indian traffic rules:

I've always thought it hilarious that Indian people chose the most boring, domesticated, compliant and stupid animal on earth to adore, but already I'm seeing cows in a whole different light. These animals clearly know they rule and the like to mess with our heads. The humpbacked bovines step off median strips just as cars are approaching, they stare down drivers daring them to charge, they turn their noses up at passing elephants and camels, and hold huddles at the busiest intersections where they seem to chat away like the bulls of Gary Larson cartoons. It's clear they are enjoying themselves.

But for animals powerful enough to stop traffic and holy enough that they'll never become steak, cows are treated dreadfully. Scrany and sickly, they survive by grazing on garbage that's dumped in plastic bags. The bags collect in their stomachs and strangulate their innards, killing the cows slowly and painfully. Jonathan has already done a story about the urban cowboys of New Delhi who lasso the animals and take them to volunteer vets for operations. Unfortunately the cows are privately owned and once they are restored to health they must be released to eat more plastic.

Most of what she says here (especially about India's street cows being unhealthy) is true, but the smug tone bothers me; how is it different from the old type of colonial travel narrative (i.e., Katherine Mayo) that aims to ridicule the "natives"?

Macdonald gets much more interesting and informative as she moves from being a passively observing traveler making wisecracks to an active participant in India's spiritual marketplace. She samples large-scale events like the the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, the Our Lady of Health Basilica at Velangani in Tamil Nadu, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Sai Baba Ashram near Bangalore, Mata Amritanandamayi's (aka, the Hugging Amma) Ashram in Kerala, and the Tibetan Buddhist center in Dharamsala. She also explores smaller, more marginal traditions, including Vipassana Buddhist meditation (where you don't talk to anyone at all for ten days), the Parsis of Malabar Hill (who come off as very pompous and somewhat delusional), and the now-fading Bene Israel Jewish community. Though she doesn't at any point visit India's major mosques, she does have a chapter on her experience in Muslim-dominated Kashmir.

In each case, Macdonald tries to make her encounter with a given religious tradition personal -- that is, she considers whether the religion she encounters is something she can connect with, and whether it's something she would want in her life in an ongoing way. She shows a willingness not only to try different things, but to actively immerse herself in various religious practices and belief-systems. It's hard to know how seriously to take it: she dabbles in not just one or two but ten different religious traditions in the course of two years, but Macdonald does structure her book as a kind of personal spiritual journey -- where each of the major religious traditions she encounters gives her something to take home.

Despite the personal element, Macdonald's book remains somewhat ethnographic: there are substantial paragraphs explaining how Jainism works, the basic principles of Zoroastrianism, and so on. And actually, what might be the most interesting ethnographic work she does isn't about Indian religion per se so much as the culture of foreign travelers who go to India for "spiritual tourism." The chapter on the large numbers of young Israelis in the mountains is especially interesting. I noticed this myself when I was in Leh (Ladakh) two years ago: everywhere you go, you see signs for restaurants serving "Israeli" cuisine. There are special Israeli-only hostels, not to mention ubiquitous young people speaking Hebrew. The Israeli kids go to India to party (cheap drugs, no parents), to experiment with things like Tibetan Buddhism, and more than anything else to get a break after their mandatory military service. Some explore alternative/mystical forms of Jewish spirituality (Macdonald goes to a Seder that resembles a rave), while others stay fairly close to conservative and orthodox Judiam. In this vein, Macdonald has a particularly surreal conversation with a Lubavitcher Rabbi (!) who runs a synagogue in Dharamkhot.

Also good is Macdonald's take on the American Sikhs who have a small school in Amritsar (for American Sikh children). There she participates in a Kundalini class, and has a conversation with a teacher named Guru Singh:

For a time my cynicism is suspended and I'm in on the group high. The singalong of self-love has created a New Age ring of confidence in the room. Guru Singh oozes happiness in himself, his faith and his music. He gives me a CD of songs he's made with Seal, called Game of Chants, and shows me references by Jane Fonda and Pierce Brosnan. I tell him Courtney Love said sat nam at the MTV awards and showed me some Kundalini Yoga moves when I interviewed her at Triple J [an Australian television variety show], but I can't resist adding that she then put her cigarette out in my coffee. . . . The song and panting stuff may be kind of fun but I'm skeptical of this form of yoga; mainly because the first Sikh guru was critical of the practice and believed service to others was a better way to God. This new version of Sikhism seems to be a synthesis of age-old knowledge and modern self-loving Americanism--its saccharine self-absorbed smugness is a bit much for me.

No really, tell us what you really think!

In general, I would recommend Macdonald's book despite its occasional off notes. While Holy Cow is unlikely to tell you anything you don't already know (that is, if you know India well), it might be a good present for a curious colleague or friend (or their kids).


Blogger Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

Are you serious about this recommendation? You want people unfamiliar with India to learn about it from some sorority brat out to find herself? You review just killed any desire I have to read her book.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Amardeep said...

It might be the way I wrote the review.

I'm going from my students' reaction to the book. It's very hard to talk about comparative religion without sounding too academic. I had tried to explain India's religious stew to my students a couple of times, but it wasn't until this book that they started talking about India's Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Christians, and Jews with some measure of interest and understanding.

Macdonald manages to sound sincere when she's visiting places like Velangani, but also funny. She's also as harsh on the westerners in India searching for enlightenment as she is on the Indians themselves.

Incidentally, I did just notice that a group of Parsis at least have been offended by her chapter on them. I can kind of see why. Her sympathies are very much with the Inter-Marrieds, and the quotes she has from various Parsis on how to respond to the disappearance of the vultures and the overall decline of the community are much more damaging than her comments on the Dakhmas.

12:25 PM  
Blogger pennathur said...


When did Kundalini Yoga become a part of Sikh spiritual practice? I am not against Yoga and being all embracing, find peace in the gurdwara as I do at a mandir. These are distinct traditions best experienced in their respective ways. Now that's a question worth exploring through the subject's eyes. I wonder if if the writer even bothered to ask. And what a person in India feels about these practices is at least as important as where it is located in the West. Now the West too has a valuable POV - that's why everyone preaches and makes known their traditions. But if that is the only one you are going to read about it becomes very boring. It is hard to capture faith, religion and spirituality in the Indian mind. The words aanmikam (frequently used in Tamizh) and aastikam (in Sanskrit) come to mind, convey something quite different from the other English words I have used earlier. In fact there are some common approaches to the divine in India that cuts across creeds and confessions. I will not oversimplify it by talking of it in terms of such shallow terms as syncreticism or plurality. One gets a feel for this manner of thinking in Abdul Kalam's Wings of Fire (which by the way is required reading for the class)

7:20 PM  
Blogger Amardeep said...

Actually, she does ask the question about Kundalini Yoga in the chapter where she's in Amritsar.

Yogi Bhajan and the American Sikhs are big into Kundalini Yoga. They don't see a contradiction with Guru Gobind Singh's (and the Rehat Maryada's) various injunctions not to be involved with non-Sikh religious practices.

She also talks to a (Punjabi) Sikh granthi at the Golden Temple and asks him this same question: aren't you guys worried about these American Sikhs who are doing Yoga and doing their funky Angrezi chants? The Granthi laughed and said (I'm paraphrasing) "it's all good if it brings people to Sikhism."

10:53 PM  
Blogger Jeff Mather said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Jeff Mather said...

At first I had the same reaction as Suvendra; what a spoiled, culturally arrogant woman. But it turned quite amusing and self-deprecating, and Macdonald showed real growth -- in maturity, if not necessarily in spirituality.

I suspect I like this book better because I read it in India last summer than I would have if I'd just picked it up. It followed my trajectory (very imperfectly) from wondering what I had let myself do to ambiguously enjoying India. It certainly shouldn't be used as a guidebook, but it did provide some surprising context. And it was a lot more enjoyable in countering jetlag than Kim.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Wanderer said...


I'm from amritsar, presently studying at IIT Madras. Just finished the book. It was an engaging read.

We must not look at the book as a source of authentic description about any religion, faith or culture; it was merely a description of the impression that India gave Sarah. Her keen observation of a culture so different from her own, makes the book a very interesting read, even for an Indian.

Like you wrote in your blog, although the book doesn't shed much new information about India (atleast for those who already know the country), it does impress the reader with the way it captures the Indian diversity, the attitude of people, and a person's spiritual quest.


P.S. - There are a few generalities that Ms. Macdonald makes about the Indian people, and paints them all to be a little stupid... I felt it was too much of a generalization for a country as vivid and diverse as India.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Emilian said...

I just finished reading Susan MacDonald's book and agree with you that it was quite good. Her 'ethnographic notes' may be a bit superficial, but this is more than made up for by the quality of her own observations. The book is actually much more serious than its quasi-comical title 'Holy cow' would suggest (e.g. the suicide of her friends' mother). The descriptions of Western seekers of spirituality and certain aspects of the whole spirituality industry are respectful but nevertheless quite hilarious at times.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being an Indian, it's really interesting to know what the foreigners think about India when they visit. I think Sarah spoke frankly about what she observed. It might hurt many Indians who are sentimental without reason. I appreciate her effort to reason out various practices and rituals. Other foreigners would have judged immediately on the face of things...she didn't.

It is also important for Indians to accept certain facts about Indians. Take the juice out of it to ponder upon and enjoy the rest of her Australian humour.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the occasional smugness. But overall an entertaining book that only makes one want to exeprience the wonder that it must be. I want to meet these people and get a taste. Is that bad? Just for a taste? Better than being completely ignorant. She made me more curious and happy and thats a good thing.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished the book and stumbbled upon this site when I googled Sarah MacDonals.

What surprises me, is that some Indians see the book as smug and disrespectful. On the contrary, I feel it was written with great respect and love -- though clearly it was a journey for the author to get to that state. She is clear that she hated India when she first arrived, but then describes how she learned to appreciate its many facets. She never claims to "know it all," and insists that her account is that of a strictly personal journey.

I bought the book because I've never been to India and I'm thinking of going. If anything, the book told me how to look beyond the surface once I get there --and gave me some directions as to what I might find.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people seem to have taken offence to remarks made by Sarah in her book. This is a shame because I think this is a fantastic, intelligent and witty account of a personal journey to discover spirituality, visiting all the worlds major religeons along the way. Her time in India was a brief two years not enough time to become fully aquanted with any of the religeons she discusses so she has to be forgive sureley if she trod on a few pios toes. Well worth a read for anybody with an open mind and curious nature looking for something deeper.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I buy and sell gold and in my business 99% of the Indian people I do business with are highly intelligent and very good people. They are buying gold for gifts so they are generous to their family. Now some can be penny wise and pound foolish but that comes for all people at all times. I like indian women best they are very patient,curious,smart,
and creative.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous HSS said...

I rarely read, actually I get bored after 20 pages although I have lots of books I finished this over my last day in India on the plane and was glad I had the day off today. I can’t see any negatives in the text. Religion is interpreted different by people who study it in depth- general observations about some faith should never be taken so harshly (it is this that is the reason behind our major problems in the world right now and if you read with a open mind you would see there was very little bias or favour over any faith and certainly as a neutral on religions I cant say I feel any different about any faith other than realising there are many fascinating varied ways in which people choose to find faith in GOD), as far as depicting India I don’t think I personally will ever find a better way to describe India to someone. A place I love but once hated a place I never feel I can relax but never want to leave and a place I would love to call my home but makes me very grateful for the life I have here in England. I don’t think the type of person who would find India fascinating would be able to contain themselves and would rush to book their trip, others for whom India would be to much (as everyone is different) it would help them realise that they should reschedule their planned trip- for me it makes my stomach ache as I leave (not cause I drank the tap water) because I will miss it all until I return next time! For those who read and are hurt by some words in the text, keep your faith and try to remember that far to much trouble is caused by us all been to focused on our beliefs and from a neutral on religion I plan to read more on all faiths from now on, all have something to give whilst I may not choose to follow any.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not even sure if folks are still checking this thread, but I just did a search for Sarah Macdonald and came upon this. I just finished the book and thought it was one of the most self-absorbed pieces of writing I've read in a long time. As an academic, and as a South Asian, I was appalled at they way she sets up a very simple East/West binary that ignores India's history and cultural heritage. I am not Indian, and having only been there to complete research for my work, I can understand that new geographies that are as stimulating as India can be a shock, but no more than Australia or any other country that you've never taken the time to understand or know. I would never recommend this to someone who doesn't have the critical thinking skills to understand the ubiquitous orientalism in the book. And finally, God Shiva in 50s hot pink sunglasses for the cover? Oh, please, this is more than simple irreverence.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a month traveling throughout northern India with an upper class Indian friend. She was most gracious and lovely, but highly protective of my American sensibilities. Therefore, even though I witnessed many of this scenes Sarah MacDonald describes in her book, I was never afforded the opportunity to enter the frey. I loved Holy Cow, because she was able to describe many of the situations that I encountered but which I didn't understand because it was considered impolite to discuss the death, garbage, proverty, etc with my host. I was fascinated to read of her 10 day Vispassna experience - I have done the same program at Goenka's retreat in Oregon and was amazed to learn that my experience was nearly identical to her's in India. Her breezy attitude about her experiences actually made her main points feel more accessible and has ignited an interest in more scholarly study about some of the religious and cultural traditions that I found fascinating. I believe that she also displays a remarkable ability to express humorously what many of us Westerners to India feel but would never express because we may be considered culturally insensitive. Although clearly not a religious or philisophical scholar I believe that the author has done a service by simplifying some of the key characteristics of India's religious/philisophical traditions - in a less complete or reliable way than was done with the "children's book" Sophie's World which in a way serves as the Cliff Notes to western philisophical thought. I would love to read more by Ms. MacDonald.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Jessica Singh said...

It was an amazing descriptive take on india and it was definately a journey reading this. I just wish she wouldn't wank on about the ABC so much.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just returned from a 3 week trip to Northern India and read this on the plane home and thought so much of it was so spot on. I loved her descriptive writing and felt she was recording my own experiences about so much of the daily life in India that I experienced. I highly recommend this book for people who have been to India or thinking about going.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to read Holy Cow after my friend reccommended it to me. She is a Indiaphile, she adores the chaos and travels to India each year for the month of October.
I spent a few weeks in India mainly working on a medical team in Gujarat. Just spent a month in Fiji where the Indian population is burgeoning as well.
I thought the book was helpful to me and I am thankful that Sarah wrote it.I really struggle with the highs and lows of Indian culture. Holy Cow put humor and grace into my perspective.
I needed to get to that point and this amazing work helped me to better understand The Religions' and the people of India. It also gives insight into a modern world of travelers from everywhere and the baggage we take with us wherever we may go.
Holy Cow is a well written and a hilarious book.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a foreigner who lived in India for 14 months and travelled quite a bit, I happened to experience many incidents Sarah wrote about myself.

Sarah made it clear that she is not omniscient and that she is just trying to express her view.

In my opinion this book is perfectly made for people who have not been to India and who can discover how it really is for a foreigner, despite all the bright and colourful pictures one usually gets to see.

Religions are enormously important for Indians and I envy them for their faith.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though I am against any kind of suppression of freedom of expression, I did not like the cover page image at all.
The title of this book and the image on the cover seems very funny to the non-Hindu but it is certainly hurting sentiments of followers of Hinduism in general and Lord Shiva in perticular.

I would suggest a better way to depict what the author wants to say. Sarah may print a photograph of a Saadhu with a similar goggles.
There are plenty such saadhus but Lord Shiva is "THE" god even for Hindus who do not like the commercialisation of our faith (like me).

5:54 AM  
Blogger matthew said...

i have to say that i found the book thoroughly disappointing in so many ways. first and foremost, the expansive and long-winded sections with her rudimentary factoids about major world religions are so self-indulgent and boring. these seemingly interminable sections ruined the flow of the narrative and left me amazed at her ignorance of the rest of the world prior to her arrival in india. i will say that mildly illiterate frat boys and tongue clicking valley girls will find her remedial religion classes interesting, though.

i understand that it's difficult for a white person -and even more so a white woman - to fully experience indian culture and society. but macdonald makes some horrible mistakes in relaying basic facts of modern indian culture. for example, her interpetation of the giving of the rakhee is embarassingly wrong. while it was formerly used to assist in the finding of a spouse, nobody in large metorpolitan centers like delhi would really expect her white husband to find a husband for their friend.

finally, the idea that macdonald learned how to speak a shakespearean style of hindi within weeks of beginning hindi classes in delhi is insulting in its idiocy. speaking gutter hindi takes non-native speakers a significant chunk of time, and to speak in a poetic old-fashioned dialect would consume years, not days. i felt offended that she attempted t pass such an obvious falsehood off as the truth.

i would not recommend this book for people who have not visited india or have not read much about it. a much more useful introduction to india is rick ray's "the soul of india", a wonderful and informative overview of the many different regions and peoples of india.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people misunderstand this book and the author's intentions. This is not meant to be an academic text, rather, it is a touching and at times funny account of Sarah's personal experiences in India.

She does provide some background information on religions etc however this is done respectfully, quickly and out of need. Not everyone is well-versed in the various religions of India and the world. Many people know virtually nothing of other religions and I think she does a good, if basic/rudimentary job of sketching in some of the background on these religions. Every religion on Earth is detailed and extensive so of course she is going to leave things out. This book is about her personal experiences and journey and I think people are expecting too much from it and judging it too harshly.

A previous commentator mentioned that only "frat boys and valley girls" would find her ruminations on these religions interesting/useful. I find this comment to be the smug one. My goodness... there are incredibly well-educated people who know virtually nothing of these religions let alone people who have virtually no education and all who fall in between. That comment is intellectual snobbery at its worst. There is so much going on in this world, so much to know and learn about. Don't ever assume that "everyone" knows. Rather assume that most people are ignorant of what goes on everywhere else and that's a much better estimation of the true state of things. Sarah uses a light touch and humorous approach, making this an easy read. You should be glad for people learning anything at all about the rest of the world because so often they aren't interested. Perhaps it would be better to view this book as a gateway to further learning. Drawn in by her storytelling style and humour, people will become fascinated by what they discover in the pages of this book and so research further, perhaps coming across more academic accounts that this.

Whilst Sarah does use humour I have read some criticisms of certain passages (mostly on other websites) that I think are very much misplaced. For instance, when she is describing the Parsi funeral rites, there are sections of the text which I believe some people have read as being sarcastic and she has been seen to be mocking the dead and their death rites. However this is simply not the case. I can undestand that with cultural barriers this could be misunderstood as mocking but as an Australian reading those passages, they were'nt perceived as mocking at all. Rather she seemed sad at the loss of the birds and rather than mocking the 'stupidity' of the city for letting the bodies rot, she is commenting on the strength of the respect of the Indian Government for so many religions and their rites. She repeats this throughout the book and is very positive about it.

I do not see Sarah as being smug and arrogant at all. I believe that Sarah is more critical about herself and her own attitudes, issues and preconceptions than she is about any of the religions she discusses. She is most critical about the loss of life (which I hardly see as a negative) and also the position of women and the poor. Whilst these views might nt be for everyone you can hardly judge for wanting qualty of life for all.

Finally, consider the place of humour in our lives. Humour is a coping mechanism. In order to make all of the tragedy and unfairness of life bearable, we have to be able to laugh at life and at ourselves. Any humour in this book seems to be more in that vein than to denigrate a religion simply to get a few laughs. I do think the cover image with the sunnies was disrespectful but please consider that authors often get no say in the cover art for their books and also that they have since changed the cover art and removed the pink sunnies and other western additions.

I think this book is fantastic. It is at times irreverent and spunky (in true Aussie style) but I think it is very honest and I admire the author's courage in writing it. In all it has given me greater understanding and respect for a variety of cultures and religions, which can only be a good thing, right?

10:02 AM  
Blogger Pecos Blue said...

Great comments and discussion. I think that alone means she accomplished something. Being from the West I needed some of the explanations of the various religions to better understand what she was talking about. I enjoyed the book. I have only been to India once and could relate to some the struggles she mentioned.

I would be interested in what you all would suggest would be a better read to get an understanding of India. There are too few Indian writers writing about India that make it to the west to give a perspective that I think is needed. I have read The Inheritance of Loss and several others. What would you recommend?

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only had 2 weeks to explore northern India. There was so much to take in, unlike any country I have visited before, that I found it quite overwhelming. It was only when I returned home, and was reading "Holy Cow" that I was able to thoroughly enjoy re-living my trip. I absolutely loved Sarah's book and laughed and cried along with her. Thank you Sarah for sharing your experiences and expressing your feelings so well.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Mumbai and I liked the book. For someone not living in "true India" I think that her observations and comments fit. hink about going to Australia if you are Indian...your observations or ideas might not in fact be true, but they were what you experience. I know many people who have traveled to India and could easily relate to the book. India hits you full on and sometimes it's too overbearing. People who travel the world tell me that that there are places that you can Thailand and say another east Asian country. India however is one of those countries that is truely unique and unlike any other and sometimes that stunns people and I think that was what happened to Sarah and many other travelers.

11:31 AM  
Blogger megha said...

I hate the way she describes India.'One smoggy night, a sadhu smeared in human ashes curses her and she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia.'what rubbish!She exaggerates about everything!I feel like going to australia and writing about everything she holds special.and while what people say here about her trying to understand india and all that is right she still doesnt know or understand india.there were quite few times in the book when i had to conciously try really hard not to take offence..if i were not indian i might have liked it. neway there were some things i really liked in the'saving face is so important that living a lie is accepted practise'very im really having mixed feelings about the book.My mum read the cover and refusd to read it though.maybe it has something to do with her'giving India and the beggar the middle finger'

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the statements that perceive 'Holly Cow!' as a fulfilling and enjoyable read not withstanding the contradictions and generalisations. In particular the mis-representations of the Parsis.

However one thing that truly bugged me was her constant reiteration of her urge to get back into Journalism, and the 'Journalist in her' wanting to work etc. If she was such a committed journalist, and ESPECIALLY being married to such a remarkable journalist, i find difficult to understand her mistakes and crude representations of some of the religions.

In saying that, i would still recommend the book to anyone. The more anyone knows or learns about another culture (no matter the perspective) the better off we all are.

4:09 AM  
Anonymous SeekerMommy said...

I loved this book. I have become increasingly interested in India and the varied religions that can be found there. I felt that I was able to take the tour with her through her various travels.

I do have to admit that it has greatly diminished my desire to travel there. The part in the book where the beggar is lying in the road after an accident and the bus driver getting out of the bus to drag the beggar to a ditch will stay with me for a very long time.

Perhaps, in time, I may regain that desire to travel to India. But if not, I was able to travel there with Sarah.

Now if only she would travel to Japan and explore the different paths there!

8:09 PM  
Anonymous swami mangalananda said...

i have just ready the book holy cow, after having lived in india for the past 12 years, i am an american and a hindu nun, we have an ashrama in karnataka, i am the only white person in our monastery although we have a few nonindian devotees.
i have seen her side of india or bharata, but i think she has missed a lot, i dont see that she ever visited any villages or stayed there, i think 75 percent of india is still rural, her take on religions was mostly "guru cults", regular temples and religious places, ashramas with out the focus on individuals as ramakrishna missions and ashramas she missed, her writing was funny,humourous, but i think she still just scratched the surface. after you live there in a rural environment it is no longer exotic, it becomes everyday life, her contacts were mostly spoiled rich kids, except for her help, to know india you have to just drop all your preconceived notions and be with it one, enlightenment is not won in a day or even a lifetime for most,
but the book was a good read,
and cows are not stupid and the wedding vows are not in favor of the husband, i dont think she ever read any translations, the husband vows not to transgress the wife, the wife is given full control of the finances and full freedom in her spiritual path and so on, people often dont know what they are vowing and dont practice it, and so on
swami mangalananda

10:58 AM  

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