Once in a while, an experience comes along, which can make or break a life pattern. An experience which can create a life so fraught with change that one does not know whether it is a life broken or a life built.
Perhaps, just perhaps, Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” is one such experience. The name conjures up the vision of an orange and black flash of a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger, a boy and a wide blue sea. The prison of the vast sea, the freedom of the boat, the dangers of a life with no challenges, the safety of continually living on the edge of disaster are some of the themes that the story plays with.
Heaving and swaying on the Pacific Ocean, in a rudderless boat, in charge of staying alive and ensuring the ongoing life of a tiger, Piscine Molitor Patel forges his belief in God. He has grown up in a Hindu family, where, nevertheless, religion was not paramount. Pi nurtures within himself a belief in God with guidance from three religious wise men, of the Hindu, Islam and Christian faiths. In a country where these three religions have marched side by side for centuries, he imbibes a wisdom far beyond his adolescent years. He shows mature wisdom in his choices, even before he finds himself as the sole human survivor from a shipwreck when on his way with his family, and some of his family’s zoo to Canada.
In his Preface, Yann Martel promises us a story that would make us believe in God, and proceeds by numerous devices to prove his point. But the beauty of the storytelling is, that, if one stops trying to relate to the symbolism and the overt attempts at creating a parable, if one just slides into the being of Pi, one learns so much about oneself. Just like life, all is revealed when one just let’s go.
At seventeen years of age, Pi is tossed into a life most others would see as a nightmare, and he turns it into a dream, in face of the unforgiving, harsh realities. He walks with God, and each day becomes a little bit more one of the Universe.
Does the book make one believe in God? I wouldn’t know. To me it is not a matter of choice to believe in God. One does not ask, “Do I believe I need oxygen to live?” One breathes in, one breathes out. One carries on.
The “Life of Pi” is a chance to get in touch with magic. The magic of belief in oneself. The magic of trust in oneself. The magic of love. The magic of beauty. The magic of the wide universe. The magic of trusting your enemy.
The “Life of Pi” is also an opportunity to learn to suspend disbelief. We are surrounded by self proclaimed realists who proudly announce that they only believe what they see. The “Life of Pi” offers us an opportunity to look beyond the touch and the feel of the physical world. To believe in belief.
The “Life of Pi” sets one’s mind free. Free to travel beyond the reaches of the mundane and the predictable. It allows the mind to grasp the possibility of true faith. Not a Faith that is bound by religion, or the persistent dictates of an institution. On the other hand, a faith that whispers in the breeze “ All is good. All is right. How could you have ever doubted?”
Hence, this is a challenging book. It can scare people into reacting and running the other way. Into hurling insults at it. But behind this reaction, it is easy to see that a few layers have fallen off the readers’ eyes, and they are dealing with it!
The book: wikifacts: SPOILER ALERT!
The movie : By Ang Lee
The symbolism: SPOILER ALERT!