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Book 17: Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure

January 26, 2010

Holy Cow was written in 2002 by Sarah MacDonald.

I am leaving for India in a month and have been doing as much research as I can to get a feel for what it will be like.  My conclusion is that there is no way to do that until you are there.  This book is one of the reasons I think that way.  After reading this spiritual quest of a book along with the Lonely Planet guide, I have come to the realization that India is done in two ways:  Spiritually or Sightseeing, and I would like to do a mix of both because that is where the best experience is to be had.

In the Lonely Planet guide, I have come across many articles on beaches and wild animal reserves, and mosques, and temples, and ruins, and tribes, rivers, and gods of all sorts.  This makes me overwhelmed a little but very excited at the same time.

Holy Cow did something entirely different to me. It showed me a glimpse of what I had slightly experienced in China.  That is a western search for spiritual identity in the east.  This book is full of it.  It is written and narrated by a woman who is there as a bit of a tag along to her husband, an Australian journalist living in Dehli.

The book begins with a story of her first experience with India a decade earlier.  She has a horrible time but is told by a fortune teller like bum that she will come back and find herself and learn to love India.  She doesn’t believe this at all…and then the current story begins.

As the girlfriend, and later wife, of a journalist, she has a lot of time on her hands to explore while he is off on a story and she takes full advantage of this.

(on a side note, it is interesting that many of the travel books I have read are written by the partner of the person sent to the country for work.  I guess they have the time on their hands to research, explore and write.  Maybe I should convince my better half to get a job and put me up somewhere exotic.)

Anyway, she arrives in the country thinking the worst because of her last experience but is determined to put in a strong effort to explore the country and what it has to offer.  Her first few months are horrible as she contracts pneumonia and is stuck in the middle of smoggy Dehli with only her illness and first world guilt to keep her company. Soon she begins to spend time in all sorts of deeply spiritual places as well as getting caught in shitty smog filled places with nothing to do but sulk.  The spiritual is what she focuses on the most though and it is the center of her experience.  According to herself, she is so broken down by leaving everything behind her and moving to India, that she is desperate to find meaning in her life.  So she sets upon trying every godly avenue she can go down:  Ashrams, Temples, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, Yogis, Sikhs, Zoroastrian/Parsi, Buddhism, Sufi, Christianity, and a shitload of spiritual guides.

Let me start with how much I hate this woman.  She spends all her time making and breaking all out alliances with all sorts of religions all while on a mainly guided tour provided by people she feels sorry for and tends to love and lose respect for in the same sentence.

Let’s break down that sentence:

1. Every she discovers a new religion or spirituality she goes at it with full force, which is fine, except that she is Australian, and doesn’t seem to treat these religions as cultures that aren’t easily penetrated.  She also tries to discover religions such as Judaism and Christianity in the form of people with loose ties to the spiritual origin.

2.  She is going nuts the whole time about her white guilt all while being whisked around India is hired cars with hired guides to hired locations.  I don’t mean to sound like that sort of experience is beneath me, but what can she truly expect to get from that in terms of genuine experience.  I can see that she has met many friendly people who invite her into their home and teach her a few things, but the conclusions she makes throughout the book are written as strong generalizations.

3. She makes some very close friends in her years abroad, but is always ready to criticize their decisions from her outside perspective.  She starts by putting down some of the strict laws governing relationships and then later in the book says that she doesn’t hate them quite as much, and goes even so far as to make arguments for them.  She does this with little written insight from the Indian perspective, and while I know she is the one narrating, she makes a concerted effort to write as a sort of guide.

I would hate to travel with this woman and would never use her as a guide or seriously gage any of her experiences in relation to my own.  The only thing I got from this book are the names of interesting places and the perspective of an individual I can totally understand (not relate to) in that she thinks she is a lost soul searching for perspective from a culture that is not hers.  It’s OK to see how others live and apply what you like to your own life but to take on their culture as your own at the drop of a hat is ridiculous.

I recommend this book for anyone who is a white westerner who has or wants to spend time following a guru.  I also recommend this book for anyone who can’t find a better book and is looking for the spiritual tour a westerner can take around India, just don’t be a douche like this woman.

I don’t want to write anymore about the specifics of this book because it will hurt your head.  I don’t hate religion, though I seriously dislike it.  What I do hate is this woman.  I really hope that the people of Australia watching or listening to her travel shows throughout the media take her with a grain of salt.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 7:17 am

    hehehe – i read this book years and years ago – i don’t remember it being that bad 🙂 though i suppose sarah mcdonald is a bit annoying 🙂

    • March 21, 2010 5:39 am

      its not a horrible book, I learned a lot from it. It’s just that I hate her as a person

  2. Rajeev permalink
    June 29, 2010 4:44 pm

    Please remove immediately the fabricated picture of lord Shiva. It hurts the Hindu religion. We all should give proper respect to all religions.

    • June 30, 2010 2:28 pm

      ummm, its a book cover. If I created it that would be something, but hit up a billion bookstores before you ask me. The review is generally negative by the way

    • Asparant permalink
      August 22, 2010 6:11 pm

      Well.. I dont think the image can hurt anybody in the Hindu religion. It is beyond all these nitty gritty things. One can understand that, if you really learn Bhagavat Gita. Being a Hindu you can do blasphemy, it wont degrade Hindu religion.
      For example Swami Vivekananda proved his disciples that God does exist and he also proved them that God does not exist.
      So the point is Indian Spirituality is beyond pictures, idols, temples, sacred texts etc etc. You can draw any Hindu God in the way you want, be it a cow, crow, pig or an ant. It is up-to you.
      To understand the Indian Spirituality you need to be an intelligent and an open mind set person..

    • November 8, 2012 3:47 am

      Im Hindu too (the better1…don’t wana explain it)…but my sentiments r not hurt, in fact i think its cool…don’t make our realign sound hippocratic n conservative cause its not like that(if u know it well)….& have u ever seen Shiva or any other god in real?? i know your answer is NO. But when some1 says a name of god, his/her image comes in our mind & how do u get that?? u got that from ancient artists & theirs 200% chance even they haven’t seen the god, so how do they make it(the image we worship now)….they use their imagination to make it…& now we worship copies of their artwork in different forms….so what’s the trouble with this? its just sun glass over a piece of art (to whom u & I now worship as a god) & just talk about yourself don’t claim that whole community is with u (on this) cause we’r not

  3. April 10, 2011 2:42 am

    The cover of the book is disrespectful and ugly. Pick your most revered person (perhaps it might even be yourself) and dress them up that way. Like it?

    White guilt is also annoying, particularly coming from such an author who admits India is a garbage bin. Why should we be so guilty, when our civilization is doing the best in the world? We should teach it to poor people in the world, just like the Aryans did long ago for ancient India.

    • April 24, 2011 3:56 am

      I don’t revere people enough to become upset over an altered or even desecrated version of their image. I’m confused by the rest of your post. Who is doing the best in the world?

  4. Sid permalink
    October 15, 2011 1:36 am

    there’s no God, just a figment of your imagination. my reason is that why is it that only humans think about something like God. Nature is not biased towards anyone, it’s just that we have a big brain so we think too much. Moral of the story: Live with peace!

    • October 22, 2011 2:30 am

      why belittle someone for believing in god? i would love to believe in a higher power and a larger context to life, but I just cant get myself to do it. To me, it would surely make thinking and decision making easier. Regarding your question about humans thinking about god, that is a bit weird, its not like other species choose not to think about it. Nature is consistently biased, it kills the weak, i.e. everybody and thing including the weak within our own humanistic hierarchies.

  5. pankajss permalink
    December 11, 2011 5:04 pm

    Dear whom so ever may concern,

    Dont know what are you going acheive by displaying such pics on web or publish it as book cover – this will only divide the humanity in the name of GOD – “My GOD” “His God” “There GOD” and in trun disturb world peace – it is not necessary that all the good/bad creativity that comes to individuals mind need to be given publicity – Creator of such pics need to re-think on larger human grounds and contribue towards mutual harmony accross World – Hindus do not belive in hiting/thrash people who hurt there sentiments and belive in “forgive and forget” principle – so from bottom of my heart I sincerly request you to pls remove the picture if my justification to you looks logical..

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