The Milk Lady of Bangalore

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan

When Shoba, a journalist, and her husband Ram move from New York City to the southern Indian city of Bangalore, she is intrigued by the cows in her neighborhood. Shoba makes the acquaintance of Serala, the local milk lady. When her family, including two daughters, aren’t interested in drinking raw milk, Shoba boils the milk and makes yogurt and ghee. Gradually, she gets interested in the role of cows in south Indian culture, and decides to write some articles. Serala and her family guide Shoba, especially when Shoba and Ram decide to buy a cow in honor of their fathers for upcoming birthday celebrations. While I was only expecting to read about cows and dairy products, Shoba also relates the uses of cow urine and dung. A touching chapter explores the difficulty of placing a male calf in mostly vegetarian south India. In this vivid, heartwarming memoir and travelogue, Shoba, Serala and the cows are very good company.

Sideways on a Scooter

Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India by Miranda Kennedy

National Public Radio reporter Miranda Kennedy has reported stories from New York City, Washington, Afghanistan, and tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. Here she tells her story of living in Delhi, India for several years as a young, single woman. The story she tells is mainly about women; how they struggle with the clash of modern and traditional lifestyles in India, where marriage and children are every young woman’s duty. Miranda has so much difficulty renting an apartment as a single woman that her absent boyfriend is reinvented as her husband. She acquires and learns to interact with bossy servants, hire a driver, and makes friends with Indian women of varied backgrounds.

Slums, rural villages, a Punjabi wedding, and visits to Bangladesh enliven the story. Geeta, modern career girl, resists then longs to be married, her ideas heavily influenced by romantic Bollywood movies. Poor Brahmin Radha looks for a husband for her daughter. Women at her health club spend more time chatting then exercising, but Miranda recognizes this as a much needed social outlet. Parvati has a very modern relationship with writer Vijay, but they maintain separate apartments. Food, family, music, and friendships make for a very lively memoir as Miranda struggles, along with her friends, to figure out her future.