Life of Pi

There was a reference to the book ‘Life of Pi’ in a book I read last week – ‘God explained in a Taxi ride’ by Paul Arden. As I’d read some promotional material for the movie which was in full swing at the same time, I decided to watch the movie. I’m not a movie buff and usually wait for a couple of months till the movie gets telecast, but this time I insisted and we (the husband & I) watched it last Sunday, within two days of the release!

I’d heard a lot about the movie from my son and my friend who’d already watched it. My friend had told me that the book (Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel) was much better and that I should read it after watching the movie. However the movie was a visual treat with amazing imagery. Despite all that yesterday when my colleagues asked me about the movie I surprised them and myself by saying that it dragged a bit during the 227 odd days on the sea.

The movie chronicles (mostly) a 16 year old Indian boys journey across the Pacific ocean, a lone Human survivor of a shipwreck, who is stranded on a life boat with a Bengal Tiger.

life-of-pi image

Today as I thought back I realized that there was more to the movie than meets the eye! It is true of any incident in life, we decide how much importance ‘an’ incident should be given and derive meaning/learning from it or simply ignore it, pushing it to the recesses of our minds.

Let’s start from the beginning (of what I remember of the movie) the boy Pi is obviously very intelligent and has lead a secure and comfortable life in the quaint little town of Pondicherry. The family, who runs a Zoo, decides to relocate to Canada to provide the children a better life. They set sail with their animals in a Japanese ship, during a terrible storm the ship capsizes but Pi who was on the deck survives as he is pushed into a life boat. The curious thing is that 4 other animals also get on the lifeboat, a Zebra with a broken leg, a spotted Hyena, an Orangutan which has lost its family and a fierce Bengal Tiger. Within a short while the Hyena kills both the Zebra & the Orangutan but gets killed by the Tiger.

Now the 2 lone survivors are a 16 year old boy, who has till then lead a secure life and the carnivorous Tiger, and this is what I see:

On the stormy night, it was Pi’s destiny – call it curiosity if you must, was what saved him. He goes on the deck to watch the storm, realizing that the boat had capsized; he tries to reach his family, but is unable to trace anyone. He was forced into the life boat by absolute strangers, who did not survive themselves. In an impossible situation, though he was mourning the loss of his family, his will to survive is enormous.

In a seemingly hopeless situation Pi devises methods to keep himself and the tiger alive. Pi uses ingenious methods to make a raft to keep away from the boat where the fierce tiger stays, he keeps his stock of water and biscuits on the raft, but a whale topples the raft and Pi loses all his supplies. Now the desperate Pi realizes that ‘hunger can change everything you think you knew about yourself.”  A strict vegetarian boy learns to catch fish and eat it raw to survive…

At one point in time once the meat in the boat gets finished, the hungry tiger, jumps into the sea in an attempt to catch fish (or Pi who is on the raft!). It quickly realizes that it can’t swim and in a desperate attempt to survive tries to get back into the boat. Pi does not want the Tiger to get into the boat, sheer survival instinct, but suddenly realizes, it is sure death for the Tiger if it stays in the sea any longer and helps it get back into the boat. He demonstrates sheer compassion for another living creature, though he is scared for his own life!

Through his ordeal, he keeps repeating to himself (reading the manual from the lifeboat), ‘never lose hope’.

Now starts the attempt to co-exist in the life boat with the Tiger, he teaches the tiger by a self-devised method of punishing and rewarding to keep to their individual territories. It is possible to live with a fierce adversary – if one is alert and understands the needs and fears of the adversary, and feeds them both.

When another storm hits them, and Pi is at the end of his hope and endurance, they find an island – a carnivorous island, where they rest for a day and regain their strength. I thought it would be the toughest decision to move away from the security of that island and brave the sea again, without knowing the destination.

I can go on about how his faith in God kept his hopes alive, that the company of the Tiger was what kept his sanity during the 227 days ordeal etc. etc. But the point is that, when one wants to see meaning, one finds it. So I conclude that it was a great movie, I’ll be reading the book to complete the gaps…

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