posted by India North, June 26, 2014
This book by Yann Martel published in 2001, subsequently inspired a movie of the same name in 2012 (By Director Ang Lee). The book has won a series of awards including the UK man booker prize.
The story is about a 16-year old boy who suffers a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The story describes the fantasy (?) adventures of Pi with “Richard Parker” in much symbolic detail.
It is evident once you have seen the movie that if you haven’t thought about the symbolism, you have probably missed something. Just as a myth like the Ramayana conveys the meaning of life through a simple story, there is depth to the story of Pi.
Pi (Piscine Molitor) Patel, the protagonist of the story is a curious youth and the son of a zoo owner. His early years see him search for the truth in an experience with several religions. At the same time he has his first experience with “Richard Parker”, the Bengal tiger, where he starts to discover animals, their inherent nature and the challenges of working with them.
As the story proceeds, Pi’s predicament is that he is in a boat with Richard Parker. He feels camaraderie with the tiger, and yet realizes that he cannot let his guard down, else it will be all over for him. He learns to work with Richard Parker. He learns to draw a balance. Giving the tiger what he needs (fresh water and food) and training him to work with rules and boundaries.
Together the pair learns to co-exist in the boat and grow in this relationship of mutual respect. Their adventures together show them diversity. They witness the magical sights of the ocean and the harshness of the elements. Their final adventure takes them to an island which is as beautiful as it is dangerous.
The end of the story brings us back to the reality of our times and a reality check on how limited we are in dealing with or even appreciating the unknown!
This story is meaningful and has several facets that teach us about life. One way to look at the story is the stages of story akin to the stages of life where Pi goes through the stages of fear, realization, control to develop a love and attachment and the final realization that nothing is permanent.
The personality uncontrolled is dangerous and can easily overpower us until we realize that there is no way but to work with the personality to achieve our larger goal (in this case survival!). Once we work with our individuality and grow in the relationship we can accomplish more and progress by leaps and bounds! While we undertake this journey, we must realize that this individuality is temporary. What is left then is a soul richer for the experience.
If we dig deeper, we could relate to the symbolism of Pi as the eternal soul being born to his personality – Richard Parker the tiger when they meet for the first time.
“Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart.” – Pi about Richard Parker
The world is not awake to this journey of working with the self and is not even receptive to learn from someone who has had the opportunity in self-growth and self realization!
It is not often these days that we come across a story so symbolic and inspiring. So watch the movie or read the book if you haven’t, but definitely look out for something to inspire you along the way!