Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald is one of those books that you should not judge by the cover. I bought this book when I was 17-years-old and really became interested in Indian culture and religion (which is something that I’m still interested in 6 years later). This is a travel adventure of an Australian woman who visited India once and vowed to never go back, but when the man she loves moved to India for business she moved with him to India for a couple years.
I mentioned Holy Cow in my Books that Inspire Travel post, and after rereading it I decided that I needed to do a more detailed post on this. I’ve wanted to go to India for almost a decade now, and this desire keeps getting stronger and stronger.
Sarah writes an incredibly honest book about her frustrations as a Westerner with Indian culture, her curiosities about religion- which she really dives into, and shares many of her adventures. It’s a bit harsh and seems ethnocentric during the first few chapters, but as she really starts to get to know the people and culture she becomes very accepting and learns to love the differences. It’s a beautiful tale of personal growth and development through travel and new experiences. Here are some quotes from the book that I loved:
“A being emerges. Naked, straight-backed, as gray as a ghost, his dreadlocks trail in the dirt. He carries a trident like the devil’s rod. It’s an aghori- a sadhu that lives in a cremation ground. A sadhu that smears himself with the ashes of the dead, drinks from human skulls and looks for salvation in stoned madness. His red eyes look straight at me and through me. It’s a look from another world, a window to nothingness, and a black hole of emptiness.”
“I realize that no matter how many spunky lovers you’ve had, how much you earn, what you do for a living and how groovy you look, all that really matters is how you live.”
“I eat the lotus landscape as dusk drips down. Beyond the lake the jagged line of the snowcapped mountains softens and merges into a mauve sky; the water darkens to purple and then black. The petals and giant leaves inward as if to hug themselves warm.”
“I have been raised in a culture of skepticism, but they see my requirement for proof as a burden on my back.”
“With naked bodies painted blue by ash and long black matted dreadlocks they look like Shiva. But they lack the god’s glory. Most lie crumpled in sleep on filthy blankets, some sit and stare, others hobble around in huge wooden chastity belts and a few perform austerities for the crowd to show their body means nothing.”
The Ganges is especially sacred, because she’s actually a beautiful goddess who crashed to earth from heaven with only Shiva’s dreadlocks to break her fall.”
“People kept asking me, ‘What do you do all day in India?’ I felt almost embarrassed saying, ‘Travel,’ as it’s not something valued much in my homeland. But I’m growing increasingly happy with my choice to go with the flow in life. It’s liberating and exciting.”
“I’ve learned so much from the land of many gods and many ways to worship. From Buddhism the power to begin to manage my mind, from Jainism the desire to make peace in all aspects of life, while Islam taught me to desire goodness and to let go of that which cannot be controlled. I thank Judaism for teaching me the power of transcendence in rituals and the Sufis for affirming my ability to find answers within and reconnecting me to the power of music. Here’s to the Parsis for teaching me that nature must be touched lightly, and Sikhs for the importance of spiritual strength. I thank the gurus for trying to pierce my ego armor and my girlfriends for making me laugh. And most of all, I thank Hinduism for showing me there are millions of paths to the divine.”
These are just a few of my favorite quotes, and there are dozens more that I underlined while reading. Have any of you guys read this book? What did you think? What other books have you read that inspired you to travel in general, or to a specific location?
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