When the author Shoba moves back to Bangalore from Manhattan with her family, she befriends the woman she buys fresh milk from every day. Over time the two-from vastly different backgrounds-bond over not only cows but also family, food, and life.
When Shoba agrees to buy the woman a new cow (why not, she needs one and Shoba can afford it), they set out looking for just the right candidate. What was at first a simple economic transaction becomes much more without a hint of slapstick. When Shoba starts dreaming of cows, a little ayurvedic medicine is in order (cow urine tablets, anyone?). When Shoba offers her neighbours fresh cow’s milk, we learn about the uses of milk in our culture. When house, the spiritual and historical role the animal plays in India is explored. And when the newly purchased cow has a male calf, Shoba must find it shelter.
In this delightful true story, readers are treated to an insider’s point of view of India and the special place cows hold here. Equally, The Cows of Bangalore offers a window into our universal connection with food and its sources, the intricacies of female friendship, and our relationship with all creatures great and small.
Sarala, my milk woman, needs a cow. She tells me so when I chide her for giving me less milk one morning. It is 7 a.m. The school buses have left. I am standing outside my Bangalore home, waiting in line for fresh cow's milk. Sarala's youngest son, Selva, squats nearby, milking his mother's favorite cow, Chella Lakshmi.
I have known Sarala for ten years. I see her when I cross the road in front of my house to buy milk. She asks me for many things but, so far, he hasn't asked for a cow. Sarala is not sure how much a Holstein Friesian cow will cost. She thinks it will be Rs 40,000 or so. She has it all worked out. She will repay my loan through a supply of free milk-two litres daily, which cost me about Rs 40 a day (Rs 20 per litre at that time. Now two litres costs Rs 70 in Bangalore). Within a year, 'or two, give or take', the loan will be repaid, she says.
When I look dubious at her rate of return, she offers an explanation. 'I need you to buy me more cows. How will you do that if I don't repay your loan?' she asks.
Then she lays it on thick. 'You know, the family in the apartment below yours wanted to buy a cow for us. They like to do that, these Jains. But the timing didn't "set". When they were ready to buy, I didn't have space in my cowshed. When I had space in my cowshed, they didn't have the money. It didn't work out. You are lucky. Else why would I approach you instead of them when I need a cow?'
As a kicker, Sarala gives me naming rights to the cow that I buy-as long as the name ends with Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. Otherwise, she says, the name won't 'set'.
If someone had told me years ago that I would write a book about cows, I would have rolled my eyes. If someone had told me then that this cow story would come to me, I would have laughed in their face. Not unkindly, but laced with a scorn I wouldn't have been able to conceal. I would have said that waiting for stories to come to you was passive and fatalistic.
I am older now and I don't have the boundless confidence of youth, the eternal sunshine of the unsullied mind. I realize now that opportunities sometimes present themselves in forms that you don't initially recognize as a story. I didn't plan to write a book about my relationship with a cow. It literally walked up to me.
Cows are a cliché in India. They make headlines and are displayed on billboards. Sometimes, they even eat billboards. They are the subject of parodies and politics, and like most stereotypes, epitomize an underlying reality: Cows are indeed holy in India.
The cow in India is a quagmire of contradictions and controversies, and also symbol of the country's sometimes polarizing politics. Having said that, this is not an explicitly political book. It is more of a personal journey. It isn't, and doesn't wish to be, a magisterial work on all aspects of the cow. Well, it sort of wishes to be a magisterial work on all aspects of the cow, but isn't one.
With these caveats, read on.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAQ918 Author: Shoba Narayan Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2018 Publisher: Simon & Schuster India ISBN: 9788193355268 Language: English Size: 8.00 X 5.50 inch Pages: 295 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.21 Kg