The Milk Lady of Bangalore will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about cows in Bangalore. Shoba Narayan writes about food, travel and culture. This is an account of the return to her native India with her husband and two children. She and her husband studied in the U.S. and began raising a family. They decided they wanted their daughters to know their Indian relatives and experience Indian culture.
The story opens as Shoba and her family are moving into their modern apartment house. At the elevator of her building, Shoba meets a woman leading a cow . She discovers that the woman is on her way to bless an apartment. Since the cow is already in the building, Shoba decides to see if she can negotiate a price with the woman for her own home to receive a blessing. The matter is settled, and it is the beginning of an unusual friendship.
Narayan discovers that Sarala not only blesses homes with her cows, she also sells fresh milk right across the street. The women develop a bond around food and family. There lives are very different; Narayan is very privileged compared to the struggling Sarala. As I read the story, it was clear that the influence of class differences was more obvious to Sarala than to Narayan. It seems to be true that the underclass, out of necessity, usually understands more about those in the upper classes than vice versa.
Much of the story centers on cows. It was fascinating to try and imagine an ancient culture living within the borders of a modern city. Cows roam the streets freely and are highly regarded. Every part of a cow is honored; cows are revered in Indian culture, customs, myths, and religion. When Shoba agrees to buy Sarala a new cow, the two women work together to make a purchase building an ever deepening friendship along the way. The book is full of humor and real-life struggle. The love of animals is common to both women. I was amazed at how much there is to learn about cows–especially those lucky enough to live in India.