"Holy Cow - An Indian Adventure"

Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald

Sarah MacDonald moved to India with her boyfriend when he was posted to New Delhi as a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Company. She had backpacked through India when she was younger and didn't like it at all so she wasn't looking forward to living there. After reading this I would hesitate even to visit; ironically, she ended up loving it.

This book is a fascinating look at the various people groups and faith systems of India. Complicated doesn't begin to describe it, and yet there's a simultaneous simplicity in their lives that is appealing in spite of everything. And by "everything" I mean the dirt, the oppressive heat and stench, the unending crowds of people and lack of solitude, the overwhelming confusion of gods and religions and the frustrating, backward attitudes toward women. I learned a lot about India...India the good and India the bad.

As much as the book reveals about the country, what it's really about is Sarah MacDonald's personal search for something to believe in. She experimented with Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam and others, spent time at their meetings and retreats and was introduced to "gods" living and dead; there are millions of different gods worshiped within these various religions. MacDonald says she gained something from each experience but she didn't come to fully accept any religion as her own.

I personally found this aspect of her story sad for a couple of reasons. For one thing I can't imagine the burden of having hundreds and thousands of gods to appease in my daily living. It seems hopeless to me and what kind of religion is it that destroys hope? The other thing is that she sort of "tried on" all these religions to see what fit her best then discarded them as quickly as she went into them. I guess I don't understand the point of shopping for a religion you like. For me it's about looking for truth because any religion that isn't based on truth would just be meaningless ritual. She concludes there is some truth in all of them but she never actually finds "the" truth of the one God she can believe in and follow. I hope one day she will.

Though I found the spiritual aspect of it confusing, I do recommend "Holy Cow" as an entertaining look at life in India. I'm glad I read it. 


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