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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure (Book Review)

Updated on June 22, 2017

India is one of the fascinating countries to be visited to study spirituality. Although the majority of the population of India are under their religion the Hinduism, they have several religions aside from Hinduism. These are Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism. Another rationale is, as an interested student, I want to learn how Indians practice these religions in their everyday life. I want to know what the differences of those religions are. This matter is also cited in the story entitled “Holy Cow.” Sarah Macdonald, the author of the books. Apart from learning the different religions of India, she valued those experiences more, although she was bewildered. As the famous cliché states, “experience is still the best teacher.”


When I was reading the book, I have noticed that the writer has a different style of sharing her story unlike most of the authors. It is in a casual manner and very much amusing. However, there are some situations, while reading the book, somewhat loses my appetite to dine. Her statements are very colorful and vivid. Most of the messages revealed are very straightforward regarding India, both in positive and negative situations but most of them are true, I believe.
Holy Cow, an Indian adventure is a nonfiction story. It consists a total of eighteen chapters. The story started when journalist Sarah Macdonald, a citizen of Australia, traveled around India and left the country with a lasting impression of heat, pollution, and poverty. Consequently, when an airport beggar read her palm and told her she would return to India-and for love, she screamed, "Never!" and gave India, and him, her finger.


However, eleven years later, the prophecy came true. When the love of Sarah's life, Jonathan then later became her husband, is assigned to India, she left her job to move to the one of the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. On Sarah’s point of view, this seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love, and it almost literally destroys her life. When she was just settled, she falls seriously ill with double pneumonia, an occurrence that obliges her to cope with some serious questions about her weak mortality and inner spiritual emptiness. "I should seek peace in the only place promising in India," she presumes. Consequently, Sarah’s journey involved the search through India to explore the real significance of life and death.
Holy Cow is Macdonald's frequently entertaining account of her adventures in a land of disorder and disagreement, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis, and Christians.


Sarah attended important religious events like 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 or also known as the Hugging Amma Ashram in Kerala, and the Tibetan Buddhist Center in Dharamsala. She even explored smaller, more marginal traditions, including Vipassana Buddhist meditation wherein they are not allowed to talk to anyone for ten days, the Parsis of Malabar Hill and the Bene Israel Jewish community.


Though she does not at any time visit India's major mosques, she does have a chapter on her experience in Muslim-dominated Kashmir. Although after a long search of faith, she is still not sure about her faith. As a reader and a critic, I am a bit disappointed with her conclusion after the long and complicated search of her true faith and beliefs.

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