The cover of Tiger Heart describes it as “My unexpected adventures to make a difference in Darjeeling and what I learned about fate, fortitude and finding family half a world away.” This is the real life story of Katrell Christie. It is co-authored by Shannon McCaffrey.
Many westerners have written about India. Their writings have been confined to the ghats of Varanasi, sages from the Himalayas, Taj Mahal, Yoga, poverty and congested roads of India. Yes, Tiger Heart has Varanasi and its ghats, it has an orphanage too. But it is not anything like those memoirs of expatriates which inundate the book shops.
Katrell lives in Atlanta in the United States. She owns a tea shop there. She never hankered to visit India. But destiny brings her to India on a short trip. She visits Darjeeling, the place from where her tea comes. There is a girls orphanage in Darjeeling which doesn’t house girls once they become seventeen. Katrell visits this orphanage. She meets three girls who would turn seventeen soon and will be thrown on the streets. She realizes that many such girls, who are from the poor communities, go missing. Many are thrown into prostitution.
Katrell’s heart tells her that she simply cannot go like that.She should do something for these girls. But she has to go. She goes but with a promise to return. Back in Atlanta, she places a note about these girls in her tea shop and asks her customers to drop change in the bowl, which would be used for the betterment of these girls.
In another six months she is back in India. Thanks to the civil unrest in Darjeeling, those three girls who have turned seventeen are still in the orphanage. She rents a house for them. She makes their lodging and boarding arrangements. She pays their school fees and takes care of all their needs. This is how the project Learning Tea is born. She again goes back to Atlanta, with a resolve to return again for her girls.
Her mother is diagnosed with a brain cancer. The doctor tells her that she will die soon. Still she returns to India to be with her girls. No wonders the girls nickname her Tiger Heart.
The book articulates the life of Katrell very well. She was born into a poor family. At one of the parties she was wearing a second hand jeans. It turns out that the jeans was given away by one of her rich classmates. You can imagine her embarrassment. But this poor girl is empathetic towards poor girls in another country. It is so heartening to see that an American lady is doing so much for these girls in India. Her life, her journey shows that where there is a will there is a way.
Now her project is funded through monthly Indian dinners at her shop, the sale of packages of Darjeeling tea, small donations from individual, a community musical and yoga festival. The book begins with the following epigraph by Rabindranath Tagore.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
The aforesaid lines aptly describe the life of Katrell. The book is written in a simple language. Katrell’s life and her work make the book an interesting read. This book will inspire you to do something for the humanity. This is a book not to be missed. I salute the Tiger Heart. Hope the book gives birth to many more Tiger Hearts.