Title: Lanterns on Their Horns
Author: Radhika Jha
Published: July 2009
Genre: Indian Fiction
Length: 480 pgs
Reviewer: Sassy Brit
A beautiful book by Beautiful Books!
This story is based around a fugitive “Junglee” cow, the last surviving member of her herd, which is found and healed by a caring, goat farmer, Ramu, who gave the cow to his wife, Laxmi, as a present. They live a very poor life in a village called Nandgaon that’s not connected to a road, and is without electricity. Educated, Laxmi, named after the Goddess of wealth by her entrepreneur father, once shared her father’s dreams of making money selling their own milk, but when he died she was forced to give up any thoughts of a career for her own arranged marriage.
Hard working Manoj Mishra wishes to end poverty in India, and wants to do this by importing foreign cows who give 25% more milk than Indian cows and breed them, distributing free milk to poor families. With this in mind Manoj takes his new wife, Pratima, to live in The Kamdhenu Institute for Rural Development (KIRD), where he believes he can save India from poverty by training as an artificial inseminator. Here he learns how to do this by “milking” a tough, hard-to-handle fighting bull from Spain, named Govinda. After time Govinda begins to accept Manoj, and out of admiration and pity for the bull, Manoj swears he will rescue the poor animal from the indignity of being “milked” daily.
Of course, Manoj does get to inseminate the Junglee cow with Govinda’s sperm, and over time Ramu’s herd grows bigger. People of the village are suspicious of such odd looking foreign cows but when the rain stops their own herds from producing milk it’s they who turn to Laxmi and Ramu and their resilient cows for help. And receive it. From there on, the foreign cows become the centre of attention, and are celebrated by the once suspicious villagers. But it’s not all milk and cream!
The author, Radhika Jha, has written a fascinating Indian tale, which embodies the heart and soul of Indian life in a poverty stricken village. It’s a well thought out story of how the people of old India learn to accept previously unthinkable modern changes into their lives whilst being on the verge of an empowering new and profitable life. I thought Lanterns on Their Horns
was a delightful Indian story. It is so much more than just a novel about cows!
Laxmi’s courage and determination to fulfill her dead father’s dreams and encourage the villagers to think differently really shone through despite her fears and reservations. Not an easy feat and there is still plenty that could go wrong. In addition, I’ve brushed up on my Indian culture. I know a lot more about the sacred cow than I originally did, and I have to say that the cow’s “voice” was endearing. Her original story of being lost and then found was very sad, but how her growing family were portrayed as kind, loving creatures was a treat to read. A beautiful book by Beautiful Books!
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