The President’s Hat – Antoine Laurain

“The important events in our lives are always the result of a sequence of tiny details”

Sometimes, we the mere mortals, need that one symbol, one gesture, a smile, a moment, a chance encounter, a word or a comment to bring out the best in us, to restore our faith in our own capabilities. When everything seems to be falling apart, something like magic holds us together and brings us out a winner. Admit it – how many times have you tried to recreate that magical moment by wearing the same clothes, combination or retracing your footsteps – just to recapture that one moment, which ended up of great significance or turning point in your life.

This book is very special to me. Its a well written, entertaining story of average people, like me, and yet, it has a strength that makes you believe in yourself, that restores your faith in life. You will read this and think – my moment is just round the corner, for me to reach out and touch it.

President Francois Mitterrand loses his hat at a dinner in a brassiere, which is picked up by a disillusioned accountant, treating himself to a decadent, over expensive dinner in a quest to “find himself”. The many characters we will come across in the book, Daniel Mercier is the only one, who’s aware of the real owner of the hat. Daniel appoints the hat as his good luck ambassador and responsible for the change in his attitude at work. Daniel finds himself extra confident and capable in facing off a tyrant boss. He proclaims that it is the Hat which bring about his promotion and hence, change in his life.

The Hat left on a train is next picked up by an executive assistant who is also an aspiring writer in a future-less relationship with a married man. The hat again bestows on her the authority and confidence, required to take charge of her life. She feels like the hat has served its purpose and leaves it in a park for the next person to enjoy. The hat is then picked up by “the nose” or a perfumer, who is facing a block and is in a state of limbo. We see the hat work its magic again, and the perfumer regains his lost ability and perhaps even his life.

The hat then is exchanged at another “cloakroom” and lands up on the head of a semi-autocrat, who is disillusioned with the ancient way of thinking. He finds himself taking charge of his life – shunning the autocrats, standing up for a modern way of thinking and life, endorsing new art and making his own choices in life rather than the ones imposed on him by his ancestors – be it the decor in his house or the paintings hanging on the walls. This time the recipient of the hat does not even realise that he has been wearing someone else’s hat all this while.

Our original thief (so to say) of the Hat is quite determined to recover his lost charm, and finally manages to snatch if off, literally from the head. As a celebration, Daniel takes his family to Venice where he finds himself yet again, within a few metre’s distance from the President. Considering it providence, he decides to return the Hat – and like the author says gains “his wish, his dream, his heart’s desire….He had become the fourth guest at the President’s table.”

“Sometimes life carries you in different directions and you don’t even realise you’ve gone down a fork in the road. the great GPS of destiny has not followed the planned route and there has been no sign to indicate you’ve passed the point of no return. Life’s Bermuda Triangle is both myth and reality”

As i wrote in the beginning, for some reason, this book always restores my faith – in me, in my life, in my situation and i feel just a little bit more optimistic. After all, if you think about it, apart from the first person, none of the Hat owners knew that the hat had belonged to the President – for them, it was just an ordinary hat that had brought good luck and turn of events in their favour. So maybe there is a hat somewhere that has my name written on it, i just have to find it on a daily basis and keep the faith.

I loved the end of this book, with President Mitterrand’s last words “I believe in the power of the spirit and i will never leave you”. Who knows what good spirits might be paving our way all this time unknown to us.

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