The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure

by Shoba Narayan


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The elevator door opens. A cow stands inside, angled diagonally to fit. It doesn’t look uncomfortable, merely impatient. “It is for the housewarming ceremony on the third floor,” explains the woman who stands behind the cow, holding it loosely with a rope. She has the sheepish look of a person caught in a strange situation who is trying to act as normal as possible. She introduces herself as Sarala and smiles reassuringly. The door closes. I shake my head and suppress a grin. It is good to be back.

When Shoba Narayan—who has just returned to India with her husband and two daughters after years in the United States—asks whether said cow might bless her apartment next, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between our author and Sarala, who also sells fresh milk right across the street from that thoroughly modern apartment building. The two women connect over not only cows but also family, food, and life. When Shoba agrees to buy Sarala a new cow, they set off looking for just the right heifer, and what was at first a simple economic transaction becomes something much deeper, though never without a hint of slapstick.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore immerses us in the culture, customs, myths, religion, sights, and sounds of a city in which the twenty-first century and the ancient past coexist like nowhere else in the world. It’s a true story of bridging divides, of understanding other ways of looking at the world, and of human connections and animal connections, and it’s an irresistible adventure of two strong women and the animals they love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616208677
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 579,524
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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.   

Table of Contents

Prologue xix

Part 1

1 The Cows-and Humans-Come Home 3

2 Bangalore 15

3 Milking the Milk Story for My Neighbors 26

4 Farm to Table, Udder to Butter 39

5 The Myths Around Milk 51

6 Are You Happy? 65

7 Embracing Humility, Humanity … and Guilt 75

8 If You Don't Like the Milk, Change Your Cow 83

9 Land of a Million Cows 94

10 The Scatological Remnants of a Cow 102

11 Cow Manure for the Garden 114

Part 2

12 My Milk Woman Has a Proposition 129

13 A Cow as a Birthday Gift? 139

14 Cause and Collateral 151

15 To Market, to Market, to Buy a Fat Cow 158

16 The Cattle Fair 171

17 Buying a Cow 188

18 A Calf 202

19 The Cow Hotel 214

20 Finding a Bride 223

21 Three Weddings and a Passing 234

Postscript 243

Acknowledgments 245

Selected Reading 251

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