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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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Some blind persons try to describe the elephant-how does it look like? One touches the trunk and says it is like the tree. The second one touches the tail and says it is long like the rope. The third one feels its flat ears, and says that it is like the umbrella. A realized soul who has the power to open their Inner Eye is pleased to bless them with the inner vision and when they see the elephant through his grace, they see the real form of the elephant and feel ashamed about their ignorance. Similarly, it is difficult to provide one clear cut answer about Life of Pi. It is improbable that the persons who read the book will arrive at a common conclusion. It is both simple and profound. The plot of the story is the one that relates to survival. Apparently there seems to be no central theme for the plot and it  is subdivided into a) India b) Adolescence c) Zoos and Zoology and iv) the Pacific Ocean. The gospel of Pi’s life is to live life in its hard trials and tribulations, its duty and beauty and seek the ultimate aim of human life– know thyself: It is a long tale, an action plot and also an essay related to human/animal relationship.

Container (the human body mechanism) and the content (the power that activates)…

The contents of the book relate to the mysticism of the East and the adventure spirit of the West. Life is also full of uncertainties and it is always compared to ocean. Some see the spiritualist and the scientist shaking hands with each other. Yann Martel  succeeds in showing one of the rare agreements between the two contending forces, two opposing forces, forces that normally do not see eye to eye with each other. The ultimate purpose of human life is to know the Infinite. The reality is in knowing and experiencing it.

Pi Patel as per the “story”, is the young son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India. Pi is the seeker of Truth. He wishes to know the connection between himself and the Eternal. He is a native Hindu, but very much interested in religions like Christianity and Islam. To him ritualistic practices of religions have some meaning, not all. He says “The presence of God is the finest of rewards.”(p. 63).He further observes, “But religion is more than rite and ritual. There is what the rite and ritual stand for.” (p. 48) He wishes to put into practice the principles enunciated in the holy texts of those religions in his day to day life. According to him, that which is not practical can not be spiritual either. He is truly secular, and prays to Jesus and Mary, Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu and Allah. His teachers are a Sufi Mystic and a priest. After returning from the visit to Kumar a sufi, he says, “Tree took account of road, which was aware of air, which was mindful of sea, which shared things with sun. Every element lived in harmonious relation with its neighbor, and all was kith and kin.” (p.62)

He does his routine activities related to spiritual disciplines, with a calm and clear heart. His progression in spiritual levels is gradual, but definite and perceptible. Out of all the good things his learning and acquisition, he evolves a personal belief system. He observes,

 “I felt like a small circle coinciding with the center of a larger one.”(p. 62)

He integrates and evolves into a personality totally calm within, and the worst situation can do him no harm, because the evolved layers of his inner being can not distinguish between the pairs of opposites. They are one and the same for him. They can no more impact him differently.

Pi’s family decides t migrate to Canada. Barring some, his father sells many of the animals and they move with them by freighter. Believe it; the small ship capsizes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Even in that situation he is not rattled. He says, “Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you Richard Parker!” (p. 97) Pi finds himself on a lifeboat, with a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The first day on the boat after the ship-wreck is spent with lots of apprehensions. “It came as an unmistakable indication to me of how low I had sunk the day I noticed, with a pinching of the heart, that I ate like an animal, that this noisy, frantic, un chewing wolfing-down of mine was exactly the way Richard Parker ate.” (p. 225) ‘In short order, the hyena dispatches the zebra, the tiger dispatches the hyena, and for all intents and purposes, Pi appears to be the next item on Richard Parker’s menu.’ For the next 227 days, Pi remains tossed in the sea with Richard Parker, his only companion. He is now cruising in the shark-infested waters. The chances of his rescue are dim. But even under such grim circumstances he wishes to save his partner. This is the real test for Pi’s practical application of his spiritual strength. Ultimately, he succeeds and the story has the happy ending. The story reminds one of “The Old man and the Sea,” by Earnest Hemingway as for the sea-struggle part of it. “Only fear can defeat life.”(p.161) thinks Pi, as he emerges victorious, in the ultimate analysis.

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