This book Life of Pi was recommended by anyone who has read it, almost unanimously. The book is definitely different from the usual fiction written these days. It reminded me of the stories of survival that I used to read in Reader’s Digest as a kid. It’s just that this story was written in 300+ pages. And talks about sometimes believable and at times unbelievable incidents of survival. The twist at the end leaves you thinking, what to believe and what not to believe.
The protagonist of the story is a Pi Patel from Pondicherry. Son of a Zookeeper, who is born a Hindu. But decides to follow Islam and Christianity as much as Hinduism. When he is 16, his family decides to immigrate to Canada along with some animals from the Zoo. One fine day they board a Japanese made ship to go to Canada. The ship sinks and Pi manages to be on a lifeboat along with 5 other animals that include a 450 pound Bengal Tiger. For the first week, animals keep feeding on each other. And at the end there is Pi and the Tiger, named Richard Parker are left on the boat.
The rest of the book Life of Pi is mostly a story of Pi’s 227-day survival on the boat with the tiger. The details are very well worked out, and they almost make you feel as sick as those on the boat. The gory details of how Pi manages food for himself and the tiger can make you puke now and then. There is a fantastical element of a carnivorous island and carnivorous trees that Pi lives on for some weeks. And this is where you start thinking if the story is true or an element of fantasy.
In the end, the author brings in another story of Pi’s survival, which is very simple and to any human, more believable logically. But the author leaves you at that and you keep wondering which story to believe in. There are lots of insights that the author gives about the survival techniques that castaways probably use. And the psychology of what they go through and what keeps them going. Most readers would get to know a lot about the animal world, how they are managed in Zoos, in circuses and their behavior when they are stuck with you in life-threatening situations.
Interestingly Pi is named after a swimming pool in France and though the author does not say this, but does his naming had to do with the fact that he had to spend so much time in the water… A take away from one of the Naming theory, which says that your name is an indicator of what has in store for you.
Buy this book – Life of Pi by Yann Martel at Amazon India.