February 2014 By Suma Varughese The Dalai Lama’s Cat By David Mitchie Hay House INR 399, Pages 216 What happens when the Dalai Lama’s cat decides to pen her memoirs? Some wisdom, some gossip, and a few feline adventures, conjure up a totally endearing yarn. HHC (His Holiness’s Cat, one of the names she is referred to by; others include Snow Lion, and even Rimpoche) stretches out luxuriously on her first floor windowsill, and observes His Holiness’s (HH) interactions with the world’s most famous and powerful people. In the process, she imbibes some of her master’s sagacity, and matures into a model Buddhist, who learns all the lessons she needs to lead a happy and fulfilled life. David Mitchie really does summon up an intimate glimpse into His Holiness’s life. We learn that he gets up in the morning at 3 am to meditate; that his two assistants are Chogyal and Tenzin, and we even get a glimpse of the view from his room. HHC’s story begins when as a bedraggled little kitten nearing death on the streets of Delhi, she is rescued by the Dalai Lama, and taken to his home in Dharamsala where she grows up into a beautiful Himalayan cat with chocolate-coloured fur and blue eyes. There is an amusing incident when, early in the day, she gives in to her instinct and catches hold of a mouse. To her consternation, the mouse is carefully taken away, allowed to heal, and released, and her halo of being HHC becomes considerably diminished. A lesson is learnt, one that the Dalai Lama has repeated umpteen times. All creature love life; all creatures recoil from suffering. She learns other lessons too. Made much of and lavishly fed by the Dalai Lama’s Italian caterer, Mrs Trinci, and at a gourmet eatery, Café Franc, run by a wannabe Buddhist called Franc, she becomes quite tubby, and has to gradually and reluctantly learn to handle her gluttony. Then there is the tom cat, Mambo, who falls in love with her. Should she pursue him, or should she stay aloof? Once again, it is the wisdom of those she lives with that enables her to recognise the fear that stops her from acting. The book ends on a triumphant note. Love has won, and HHC is soon to be a mother. The many characters we meet through the book, including Mrs Trinci, Franc and a host of famous people, have learnt their own valuable lessons, and they too are on the path. The benevolent presence of His Holiness broods over the whole book, the source of the transformation of its characters. An engaging story teller, David Mitchie manages to communicate the heart of spiritual wisdom in the simplest and most enjoyable way, through the winsome persona of HHC. Purr- fect? Well, close enough. -Suma Varughese
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