The Milk Lady of Bangalore Summary and Reviews

The Milk Lady of Bangalore

An Unexpected Adventure

by Shoba Narayan

The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan X
The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2018
    272 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

In this charming true story, the bond between two unforgettable women leads to a humorous and insightful exploration of India, cows, food, culture, class - and our deep connection to the animals who live among us.

When Shoba Narayan, a writer and cookbook author who had lived for years in Manhattan, moves back to Bangalore with her family, she befriends the milk lady, from whom she buys fresh milk every day. These two women from very different backgrounds bond over not only cows, considered holy in India, but also family, food, and life. After Narayan agrees to buy her milk lady a new cow (she needs one and Narayan can afford it, so why not?), they set off looking for just the right cow.

What was at first a simple economic transaction becomes something much more complicated, though never without a hint of slapstick. When Narayan starts dreaming of cows, a little Ayurvedic medicine is in order. (Cow urine tablets, anyone?) When Narayan offers her surprised neighbors fresh cow's milk, we learn about the place of milk in Indian culture. When Narayan wants a cow to bless her house, the spiritual and historical role that cows play in India is explored.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore is a window into our universal connection to food and its sources, the intricacies of female friendship, and our relationship to all animals.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An absolute joy to read. Through her close encounters with the bovine kind, Narayan shows how Indian traditions are incorporated into her contemporary way of life." - Library Journal,

"Sincere and laugh-out-loud funny...Narayan's rich and evocative writing transports readers to the busy streets of Bangalore and a fully formed picture of modern India." - Kirkus

"Filled with the vivid colors, sights, and sounds of a vibrant and ancient culture, Narayan's in-depth treatment of cow mythology is a beautiful ode to her motherland." - Booklist

"Shoba Narayan offers a surprisingly fresh understanding of everyday life in the land of the sacred cow, overflowing with the daily contradictions and ironies that India so richly offers up to the discerning eye, in a wonderfully eloquent generational saga, intertwined with milk, dung and Uber." - Raju Narisetti, CEO, Gizmodo, and former managing editor of The Washington Post

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Reader Reviews

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Shirin M. (Beverly Hills, CA)

And the real milk lady is ...
A well-researched, entertaining, and charming read that captures the melding of the old and new as the author delves into the significance of cows and milk in Indian religion and culture. The journalistic skills of the author are evident as she reports on her quest to buy a cow. Humor, sensitivity and respect run deep as Narayan explores her return to India and the friendship that ensues with the neighborhood milk lady. Filled with cultural, historic and scientific details that seamlessly blend with human relationships makes it an enticing read. A welcome addition to any library.

Gail B. (Albuquerque, NM)

Going Home to India
Expat and long-time resident of New York City, Shoba Narayan returns to her native home in southern India. As she moves into her new apartment, she is preceded into the elevator by the neighborhood cow, there to attend another resident's housewarming. Thus begins her unlikely friendship with Sarala, the Milk Lady of Bangladore, and a series of essays about the dairy industry and cow worship in India -- some serious, others irrepressibly funny -- like asking a cow if it had good new for the two cow-mothers (Sarala and Shoba), to which the cow nods vigorously.

Jan T. (Leona Valley, CA)

The Milk Lady of Bangalore
Very enjoyable. The story revolves around a woman who had moved back to India after 20 years in New York and her relationship with the neighborhood milk lady and her cows. Very vivid descriptions of India, its people and the relationship with cows. At times laugh out loud funny. The relationships with a variety of Indians from relatives to street sellers is fascinating. I would highly recommend this book!

Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Fun, interesting and touching! Who doesn't love cows?
I thought this was a fabulous, fun read. I learned so much about southern Indian culture, not to mention how much I learned about cows. I have a whole new appreciation for bovines and their milk nectar. I chuckled, I smiled, I even had a tear in my eye once or twice. I'm so glad I read this book and highly recommend it.

Maria Kronfeld

A delightfully unexpected adventure!
Shoba Narayan approaches her new life in Bangalore with expansive curiosity and lively self-awareness. She’s game for anything and shares her enthusiasm with unpredictable results. When she takes her daughter to milk a cow, the “ten-year-old screams like she has been shot” when the cow defecates. When Narayan proudly tells her sophisticated neighbors that the milk in their coffee is from the cows across the street, her guests “sputter and spit out the contents of their mouths into their cups.”

There is pathos too: her blessing of a dying dog is so beautifully moving, I wrote it out to use in that sad and inevitable situation.

Narayan blends memoir and investigative reporting so adroitly you don’t realize you’re learning something until you hear yourself explaining to friends how the quality of milk is different from cow to cow.

Narayan neither romanticizes nor patronizes those she encounters. She embraces the Indian ethos of dualism: her friendship with the illiterate Sarala is both burden and privilege. Sarala needs Narayan’s help to buy a new cow; Narayan benefits spiritually and culturally from her time with Sarala. And we benefit most of all, immersing ourselves into lives so different from our own without leaving the comfort of our homes.

N.B. If you read this book, you will want a cow.

Jill E. (Albuquerque, NM)

Traditions
When you live in a different country than where you were born,how do you share your heritage? Shoiba and her husband return to Bangalore, India so that their children would become closer to their grandparents and cousins. The children experience not only the closeness of their relatives but also their traditions. The history and meaning behind their reverence for cows is related through the friendship of Sarula and the Milk Lady. It is told in a wise yet humorous way which enlightens the readers about this unique tradition.

...19 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Shoba Narayan

Shoba Narayan writes about food, travel, fashion, art, and culture for many publications, including Conde Nast Traveler, the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Town & Country, Food & Wine, Saveur, Newsweek, and House Beautiful. She writes a weekly column for Mint Lounge, an Indian business daily, which is affiliated with the Wall Street Journal. Her commentaries have aired on NPR's All Things Considered. Narayan is the author of Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes, and her essay "The God of Small Feasts" won the James Beard Foundation's MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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