Not So Different After All

The Milk Lady of Bangalore is a cultural, information filled novel about a woman from India who returns home after living in New York City in order to reconnect with her past self and the traditions she may have left behind.  This memoir is recollected experiences of the author Shoba Narayan that truly show how moving back to her homeland opened her eyes to her culture. Not only does this book provide factual content regarding the atmosphere in India and how certain people choose to live still but it also includes personal experiences and religious beliefs that guide the novel’s plot.

            Shoba Narayan is a mother of two daughters who moved to the United States from India but then her and her husband decided to move back to reconnect with the culture and family they had once left behind. Narayan is unknowing of what to expect but as soon as she moves into her new apartment on a military run base she is faced with her past. A milk lady named Sarala runs into her on the elevator bringing her cow to another woman’s house for good luck. It is explained in depth why the cow is so sacred in India and how the cow can bring people good fortune and health. One of the oldest normality’s in India is drinking raw cow milk. Today, we know that raw cow milk can carry many diseases and be potentially harmful and this is the impression Narayan began to believe once she moved to America. But, after being offered raw milk persistently by the Sarala, she decides it is imperative to reintroduce this ancient custom back into her life and even her family’s. Narayan and the Milk Lady, Sarala, develop a strong, empowering friendship that benefits both women in many ways. Narayan is taught the natural remedies and old, sometimes forgotten, traditions of India and in exchange gives Sarala the financial or “class driven,” privileges Narayan has. Narayan sees her connection with Sarala and cows as a rebirth of her connection to her childhood. In order to feel like she is home again she revisits the customs of her past. When one of Sarala’s cows dies, Narayan learns how spiritual and her connection to her milking cows really are and how much trust she puts in these animals because they “nurture and save humans.” Not just to provide for her family but also to connect on a deeper level. This memoir describes the daily endeavors of both Sarala and Narayan and how they are so different but can intertwine and benefit from each other where Narayan discovers, “the road to salvation is paved with warm milk.”

            I personally was fond of this memoir because of the array of content that was given. It didn’t just feel information heavy or just a retelling of stories but a good combination of both. The personal occurrences that helped the author reconnect with her roots was supported by factual evidence and why certain elements of the Indian lifestyle were practiced. The book was very entertaining because the characters were very lively and the way the book was written made it easy for me to envision the streets of India where the cows roamed or the field where they grazed. I found it to be very touching that the two main women in the book had such an amazing friendship and showed how class, upbringing or knowledge did not divide these women but instead brought them together. Especially today, many people let the development of technology, infrastructure or maybe even food processing take us over to become closed minded, and maybe even lead us to believe everyone else lives like this.

Overall, I found this book to be intriguing, easy to follow but also informative. That is why I would recommend it to someone else who is interested in reading an educational, thought provoking novel. I think what most people will enjoy most about this book is how such a simple topic such as milk can form an entire book filled with ancient traditions, unusual friendships and even laughter.

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