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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventureby Sarah Macdonald
Synopses & Reviews
1 - Through the Looking Glass
I have a dreadful long-term memory. I only remember two traumatic events of my childhood--my brother's near-death by drowning and my own near-death by humiliation when I was rescued by a lifeguard while attempting my first lap of the butterfly stroke in the local pool. I vaguely remember truth or dare kisses in the back of a bus, aged about twelve, dancing to "My Sharona" at thirteen, behaving like an absolute arsehole in my adolescence and having a hideous hippie phase involving dreadlocks and tie-dye when I was at college.
For my twenty-first birthday my parents gave me a plane ticket and a blessing to leave home and Australia for a year. This middle-class rite of passage had become a family tradition--my mother had hitchhiked around Europe in the fifties and wanted us all to experience the joy of travel before we settled into careers. My trip through Europe, Egypt and Turkey is a bit of a blur and recollections of the two-month tour of India on the way home are vague. I can see myself roadside squatting and peeing with women in wonderful saris, sunset games of beach cricket with a trinity of fat Goan men named Jesus, Joseph and Jude, and the white bright teeth of a child rickshaw driver wearing a T-shirt printed with come on aussie come on. I recall angst, incredible anger, deep depression and a love-hate relationship with the country, but I can't remember why. I'd filed the soothsayer, his prophecies and my vow never to return under "young stupid rubbish" and let it fall deep into the black hole of my brain.
Until now--a month short of eleven years later.
As I walk into the plane in Singapore, a seed starts to sprout in the blocked sewer of my memory; a seed watered by the essence of stale urine and the whiff of vomit coming from my window seat (where the pink and orange paisley wallpaper artfully camouflages the spew). The high-pitched, highly excited jumble of Indian voices almost germinates a recollection. But after too many going-away parties, involving too much indulgence, I'm too wasted to let the bud bloom. I fall asleep.
Somewhere over Chennai I become aware of an increasingly rhythmic prodding of my inner thigh by something long, thin and hard. I open my eyes to see a brown finger with a long curved nail closing in on my crotch. The digit is attached to a scrawny old Sikh in a turban sitting beside me. He is slobbering and shaking with excitement. I'm too sleepy, shocked and, for some reason, too embarrassed to scream, so I buzz for sisterly assistance.
An air hostess with big hair, long nails and drag-queen makeup slowly strolls over. She looks cranky.
"This man is touching me when I sleep," I bleat indignantly.
The hostess rolls her eyes and waggles her finger.
"Well, stay awake and don't let it happen again, madam."
She wheels on the spot and strides off, swishing her nylon sari.
Months later a friend will tell me that many Indian flight attendants are rich girls whose parents pay a massive bribe to get them a job involving travel and five-star hotels. These brats view passengers as pesky intrusions way beneath their status, and detest doing the job of a high-flying servant. But right now, I'm floored, abandoned and angry.
I stay wide-awake and alert until the hostess with
A popular Australian radio correspondent humorously recounts her reluctant relocation to New Delhi, India, where a dangerous illness propelled her to explore the region's culture and spirituality in order to discover its virtues as well as a greater understanding about life and death. Original.
In her twenties, journalist Sarah Macdonald backpacked around India and came away with a lasting impression of heat, pollution and poverty. So when an airport beggar read her palm and told her she would return to India—and for love—she screamed, “Never!” and gave the country, and him, the finger.
But eleven years later, the prophecy comes true. When the love of Sarah’s life is posted to India, she quits her dream job to move to the most polluted city on earth, New Delhi. For Sarah this seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love, and it almost kills her, literally. Just settled, she falls dangerously ill with double pneumonia, an experience that compels her to face some serious questions about her own fragile mortality and inner spiritual void. “I must find peace in the only place possible in India,” she concludes. “Within.” Thus begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.
Holy Cow is Macdonald’s often hilarious chronicle of her adventures in a land of chaos and contradiction, of encounters with Hinduism, Islam and Jainism, Sufis, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians and a kaleidoscope of yogis, swamis and Bollywood stars. From spiritual retreats and crumbling nirvanas to war zones and New Delhi nightclubs, it is a journey that only a woman on a mission to save her soul, her love life—and her sanity—can survive.
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