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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down
I am an Indian and a Hindu and I would like to affirm that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

If Hinduism stands for tolerance, I fail to see how other Indians could not read between the lines to see that she is quite attracted towards the Hindu approach to life as being wonderfully suited to every individual's aspiration to find a unique path to his or her own...
Published on December 12, 2006 by Mr. Prasad Seshadri

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very over-stated and sensationalized
I bought the book as I thought it would give me good perspectives on a "white person's" view of India. But having interacted with very many Westerners who have visited India, I feel that the book is very over-stated in its views and most parts have been sensationalized to make for a good sale.

Sarah ends with a view that she eventually experienced a different...
Published on January 20, 2008 by Sandra M


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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down, December 12, 2006
By 
I am an Indian and a Hindu and I would like to affirm that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

If Hinduism stands for tolerance, I fail to see how other Indians could not read between the lines to see that she is quite attracted towards the Hindu approach to life as being wonderfully suited to every individual's aspiration to find a unique path to his or her own goals rather than the prescriptive approach followed by other faiths.

After getting a grasp of her own questioning, irreverant and open mind - I think she is more a Hindu than she is a Christian. I can totally relate to her.

It is totally true that most North of India is patronizing towards women, it totally true that there is dirt and filth, it is totally true that the weather is oppressive - and if all that is true - would it not be a writer's duty to report it as it actually is? But wait a minute - if in spite of all this, she was totally overwhelmed with the affection showered on her by the people - to the extent that she weeps when she bids adieu to the country, is it not the ultimate tribute to India?

Why is it that we are are conditioned to be admired only for our material possessions, our so called victories or our magnificent monuments? Our most endearing possession is the warmth in our hearts and Sarah responds to that better than she does to anything else.

Her name is Sarah. I believe that she is Sarasvati incarnate :o)..as I indeed believe that Sarah and Abraham were none other than Sarasvati and Brahma who migrated West after Brahma's fall of favor within the Hindu religion.

I would love to be able to chat with her some time and get to know her.
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66 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Gorgeous splashes of color among filth, flies, and forlorn", April 21, 2004
By 
Eleven years after backpacking through India with complaints of the poverty, heat and pollution Australian Sarah Macdonald relented to never return; she even went to the extreme of flipping the middle finger to the ground below as her plane ascended into the sky. Sarah wasn't necessarily happy to quit her successful job in Sydney to relocate to New Delhi to live with her journalist boyfriend; she often wondered if she was making the right decision. Upon arrival she started having flashbacks of pugnant body odor and beggars with leprosy. The pollution and thick smog affected her health and wellbeing. It is clear that she isn't quite cut out to live in New Delhi.
After reading the first couple chapters I expected HOLY COW to be filled with constant whining of India's derelict living conditions and complaints based on a Westernized perspective resulting in a mediocre travel narrative. But low and behold, I was soon pleasantly surprised how Sarah slowly evolved and reevaluated the country that she has scorned for so many years. After she started becoming reacquainted in her new home she started looking beyond the mayhem and dirt and began to see the beauty of India. Being a devout atheist when she first moved to New Delhi she slowly awoke and embraced the dynamic religions of Hinduism and Buddhism; she began to appreciate the sounds and surroundings of her new home.
While her husband is busy working Sarah was able to travel throughout India with her new perspectives and begins to enjoy the dichotomies that India offers. My favorite side trip was the Buddhist retreat in the Himalayan footsteps that taught her to meditate by concentrating on her breathing. I cannot imagine undergoing anything close to that endeavor.
Throughout HOLY COW Sarah Macdonald succeeded in digging past a traveler's first impressions of India to highlight the beauty of this varied land. By reading HOLY COW I now understand just a little bit more of India, and that was my initial goal when I first picked up this book.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, irreverent, illuminating memoir and travelogue, April 14, 2005
I, too, traveled in India in my 20s (in my case, when I was 24). My boyfriend (now husband) and I traveled through Asia for 2-1/2 months after leaving Japan, where we had lived and worked for 3 years. We spent a month in India, focusing our time on Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan. We traveled on a shoestring with only one notable splurge.

Although I have some fond memories of India--my husband proposed to me at the beautiful Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur--when we left the country, I was extremely ready to leave. I am fascinated with India--its food, its history, its literature, and its culture. However, I have not returned to India since I left 16 years ago, and have no immediate desire to do so. Therefore, I can relate to Sarah Macdonald's first impressions of the country and her new appreciation for it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of her irreverent, honest look at Indian culture, customs, and religions. It's interesting to note how many reviewers feel that Macdonald is being disrespectful to Indians in her portrayal of the country, because I feel it's quite the contrary. Although she is critical of individual Indians and was exhausted and angered by the treatment of women (and I can definitely relate to that), she cried when she left the country because of the close relationships she had formed and the fondness she developed for the whole country.

I enjoyed her forays into Indian religions. She was the first to comment that she realized that she didn't have a full picture of these religions. I did not conclude that she was drawing a broad brush on all people following these religions because of her brief samplings into their cultures and beliefs. As a progressive Christian, I'm very interested in other religions and believe there are many paths to God. Macdonald was fascinated to learn about what makes people believe what they do. When she observed that some of the Jews she encountered practiced their religion in an exclusive way, I did not read that to mean that she felt all Jews were that way...just as she herself could not be compared to all Christians or people who grew up with a Christian background.

I particularly appreciated her observations around September 11 and her sadness about violence begetting more violence and a lack of effort to bridge our cultures and move toward a greater level of global and cross-cultural understanding.

If you read it as a factual account of all things Indian, you will find it lacking. I read Holy Cow as a travelogue, memoir, and one western person's perspective on India, and I found it refreshing, fascinating, and fun.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very over-stated and sensationalized, January 20, 2008
By 
Sandra M (San Jose, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
I bought the book as I thought it would give me good perspectives on a "white person's" view of India. But having interacted with very many Westerners who have visited India, I feel that the book is very over-stated in its views and most parts have been sensationalized to make for a good sale.

Sarah ends with a view that she eventually experienced a different side to India, however, that premise comes across as quite condescending.

I started the book positively and actually enjoyed some situations she presentated, however, came a point when her exaggerations and convenient (mis)interpretations to sensationalize, made me almost "throw up" in disgust. I rapidly lost interest in the book thereafter and definitely question its credibility.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought and read this book while traveling in India in 2004, November 3, 2006
What a find it was to buy a used copy of this book in India. I purchased it at a little book store in the mountains - well out away from all the big cities. I was kind of amazed that it was there on the shelf for sale. I spent almost two months on my own "spritual Journey" around India and traveled over 6,500 miles.

What Sara writes about and feels is kind of what all first timers to India find or must think. The longer you are there the more you begin to absorb the culture and understand the people. It is a cultrual shock no matter how much you think you are open to yoga, Hindu religious beliefs and the people. There is just something so special and different there that you find in person. The author captures much of that energy in her book.

I would recommend that anyone going to India buy this book and read it on the flight over there (You will have lots of time to read many books on the airplanes - that is one very long flight!)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most entertaining travelogues I have read in a long time..., January 9, 2007
For the record, I am from India (now living in the US) and Hindu. I grew up and went to college around Delhi.

I was intrigued by the book when I saw it in the bookstore. I thought the cover was hilarious (you can attribute that to Hindu tolerance :-)) We had just met some friends (Americans) for dinner who had recently spent a year in Bangalore, India working for TI, so the timing of encountering this book was impeccable.

The initial part of the book was slightly off-putting as Sarah seemed to be very negative about India but then as you read further you realize that she was indeed negative when she came to India and as she stayed there longer her views evolved.

Having grown up in India I am well aware of the positives and negatives of India that Sarah points out. What really impressed me about Sarah was her desire to go out of her way and explore the land, the religions, the culture and the language. I wish more of us did that when we travel overseas.

The prose is well written and flows very well. I would strongly recommend this book.
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62 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Obnoxious and condescending, May 1, 2004
Macdonald's book deals with a fascinating topic, but her approach to it is shallow, smug, and dull. Her writing style is overwrought and clunky, and her persona is unbearable.
Almost every chapter has the same repetitive structure: Macdonald hears about some aspect of Indian religion or culture and decides to investigate it. At first she thinks it's stupid and pointless. But by the end of the chapter she realizes that though it's not for her, it does have something to offer. If she asked for some blessing, she will have received it by the end of that chapter or the beginning of the next. As you can imagine, this structure gets very old very fast.
The author's attitude toward India and Indians combines the worst of both the old and the new West: patronizing sneers at a culture she doesn't understand mix uneasily with breast-beating over her own pain at seeing poor people and a greed for exotic eastern spirituality to fill her inner shallowness.
(...)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holy Controversy, February 8, 2006
It's nice to be the 64th person to review this book; the other 63 reviews made fascinating reading. Clearly this is a love-it-or-hate-it book.

I read Holy Cow before I went to India for a month, and enjoyed it very much, but enjoyed it even more after my return. MacDonald is like many of the sassy, adventurous Australians I met in India--outspoken, open-minded, self-deprecating, and funny. Obviously those qualities aren't appreciated by everyone.

I think that Sarah MacDonald expresses the things many visitors think but don't say aloud--the outrage, the confusion, the frustration of a culture so compelling and moving, yet so unlike one's own. In the end, however, it's up to the traveler to learn and grow and adapt and change, and Sarah did that beautifully.

Written after her return to Australia, the book clearly portrays the presuppositions and prejudices she went to India with, perhaps a bit overblown in her efforts to laugh at herself without being directly self-scorning.

It is impossible to spend time in India without changing, fundamentally, deeply, forever. India has a unique capacity to make the traveler question everything he or she knows, to be transformative of everyone who touches her. To the degree that MacDonald was able to capture that transformation--and for me she did--it was a great read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest, Fun and Informative (If you read the WHOLE thing), March 29, 2006
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First, I have to note that all of the negative reviews of this book have the following key phrases or similar: "after a few pages," "barely a few pages in," and "within the first few pages of the book..." Yes, it's true, the beginning of the book is not exactly a politically correct celebration of another culture. It's a brutally honest portrait of how we spoiled Westerners tend to genuinely respond when we are confronted with poverty and lose the luxuries that have defined our lives and made them so easy. But she's sharing her experience, not writing a Travel India brochure and she doesn't claim to be speaking for anyone but herself.

Its pretty clear that the negative reviewers did not read the past those first few pages they mentioned, however, because while she retains her humor and fun style, this writer gradually learns about all that India has to offer and begins to develop an appreciation for its complexities. Although she ultimately rejects fully adopting any of the prepackaged spiritualities in India, she develops herself spiritually by taking something valuable from each one. It ends up being an experience that she sees as significantly developing her spiritual life and improving her marital relationship for the better. So, I highly recommend if you are going to read this book, read the whole thing. And PLEASE don't write a review until you've read the entire book.

This book is largely a fun, interesting and informative read if you enjoy reading memoir type books. I enjoyed joining her on her spiritual journey. And I believe I learned about India while still appreciating that my perception could ultimately be quite different. Admittedly, in some areas, it gets a little too self-absorbed or drags. For example, it started to feel a little redundant around the third quarter, but it quickly picked up again after her life changes on Sept. 11, 2001. Ultimately, I recommend this book for folks who like introspective, travel and/or memoir style books.
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44 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst travel book I have ever read, November 9, 2005
By 
Mo (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
I picked up this book to kill some time while waiting in a hospital lobby. After a few pages, I wasn't sure if the hospital was more depressing or this book was. By the time I finished, the vote went to the book.

I am from India and was stunned beyond belief to see the less than flattering picture painted in this book and on this book. Ms Macdonald's knowledge of India and Indian culture and traditions is half-baked at best.

She draws conclusions which have no basis in fact(the woman with the half burned face is termed a dowry victim). She has misspelt most of the Indian names(the poet was Firdaus and not Fir Das) or taken a very literal meaning of others(Hari Lal does not mean green-red, it means son of Lord Krishna).

All the Indians are classified as Anglophiles who are obsessed with foreigners and have their fingers in their noses or other parts of their anatomy. Amazingly, during her long stay, she didn't meet a single Indian who could speak english properly. Everybody's face resembles some animal. In all the "meditation camps" that she frequents, the Indians are the only ones who quit before everybody else or they are unable to "grasp the true meaning". She fails to see any good thing in all the places she visits but makes sure that she highlights the crowd and the stink. In all the tourist spots, Indians are the ones spreading the garbage whereas all the others are very careful about the cleanliness. The word 'filthy' is probably the word used most in this book and always in context with India and Indians.

Ms Macdonald whines a lot. This book is very offending for any Indian. Not a single positive thing about the country she claims to love in the end. If you want to read something classier, opt for Mark Tully or William Dalrymple. Stay away from this trash.
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Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
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