I will inaugurate this page by giving my opinion about the last book I read- Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
It was actually for a very long time I was looking forward to reading this one but it somehow always managed to slip from my mind. I guess this can be called being biased, but more often than not, in the fiction genre, I prefer the works which have received some awards, especially when I know I don’t have much reading time at hand.
Anyways, the story in itself, isn’t that intricate and actually can be summarized in quite few lines. The author describes a boy, son of a zoo owner, living in post independent India in Pondicherry and how his way of thinking and especially his perception about the concept of religion is different from his peers, in fact, from everyone. He has a very direct and unartificial way of looking at the four religions that he comes across early in his childhood. All he can look at is what each of those three beliefs say, which he realizes is common among all of them. So he adapts all the three religions and offers his prayers and follows other customs(which he can at his age and with his limited resources). He gets comfortable with a Hindu priest who explains to him his idea of religion, a Muslim, and a Christian. Things go pretty smoothly till the time each of those three people and his parents find out what he is doing. What follows is a nice part on how he is confronted and questioned and how that boy justifies himself and even after being told to make a choice, decides that he will do what he wants to, and continues to follow all the three beliefs.
Uptil this point, I was getting a feeling that the story is going to revolve around this only, maybe a few more characters and scenario’s being added at max. But what was making me wonder was where does the tiger and the boat, which are on the cover of the novel, are going to come into scene. They did shortly.
The boy’s family decides to move off to Canada and sells all the animals they have in the zoo and set sail with a bunch of animals who are to be dropped at various ports on the way. Due to technical failure, the ship sinks and the boy is the only one to survive. To his surprise, he finds out that the lifeboat he is on, has a white tiger, a hyena and a zebra to give him company. The tiger is a bit hurt and does not become active only a bit late in the story, during which, the hayena manages to painfully, slowly and in pieces, eat the zebra. The only food and water they have is the reserves in the lifeboat for 32 passengers it was meant for and he reckoned that it was more than enough for him to last till the time he is rescued, he just wasn’t sure whether he would survive the hyena and more importantly, the tiger.
Soon the tiger wakes up and finishes off with hyena. Now the only way the boy thinks he is going to live through this ordeal is by training the tiger, by recalling everything he knew about how to train beasts. So he beings his lessons and is able to tame the tiger the extent that the tiger gets the idea of territory and always keeps to his side of boat. The lines being drawn, now they run out of food and water and the count of days.
The description by the author at this stage is very detailed and keeps one just flipping the pages. The thoughts that go through the boy’s mind, how he teaches himself to catch fish, how he starts getting attached to the tiger, the description of the tiger’s agony and reaching a state of mind numbing pain, calmness and detachment has been surrealy portrayed by the author. For me, this was the best part of the novel. I wont delve more into the story but this part, which makes about half the novel, I feel, is something which helped this novel take the prize. The ending is a bit predictable; the boy is rescued and obviously, no one believes his story and on the contrary become sure that the boy was delusional because of his condition and himself doesn’t know what happened.
Not one of the best novels I have read, but definitely a one time read.