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The Milk Lady of Bangalore

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When journalist Shoba Narayan moved back home to India after living in Manhattan for many years, the last thing she expected to see in her modern high-rise apartment building was a cow in the elevator. But there it stood—angled awkwardly in the small space and tethered to its owner, Sarala, the milk lady.

To read the Q&A with Narayan, please click on the link below:

After this surprising encounter, Narayan’s life becomes one adventure after another as she and Sarala, now an unexpected friend and wise mentor, set off on a quest to buy a new milk cow.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure (Algonquin Books, $24.95, publication date: January 23, 2018) is the spirited, inspiring and often funny true story of how two strong women from very different backgrounds bond over not only cows, but also family, food, and life.

An award-winning author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, and Condé Nast Traveler, among others, Shoba Narayan lived in the United States for twenty years before moving back to India. In Bangalore (now formally called Bengaluru), she found a city where five thousand years of tradition meet 21st century modernity.

With Sarala’s guidance, Narayan comes to appreciate the cow as a cultural touchstone to understanding food, politics, economics, spirituality, and class.

“Think of India and certain images come to mind,” Narayan writes. “Spicy food, sprawling slums, saris, gorgeously colored fabrics, beggars in street corners, Bollywood music, bazaars, tigers, elephants, color, chaos, traffic, and the Taj Mahal. There is one Indian icon, however, that hasn’t been explored very much. It is obvious and unseen. It plays into the global food debate about nutrition and what to eat. It is a beloved animal, and the source of what we give our children every morning. It is, of course, the cow.”

In the same vein as Sy Montgomery’s The Good Good Pig, The Milk Lady of Bangalore explores the ways in which an animal can remind us of what makes us most human—our faith, our culture, and our relationships. And like Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, this universal story of bridging cultural divides sheds light on the myriad ways of looking at the world.

Narayan writes about food, travel, and culture for Condé Nast Traveler, Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Saveur. Her commentaries have aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Narayan is the author of Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes, which was a finalist for a James Beard Award, and her essay “The God of Small Feasts” won the James Beard Foundation’s MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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