Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dear Richard Parker

Richard Parker, 
C/o Piscine Molitor Patel aka Pi, 
Somewhere on the Ocean, 
C/o Yann Martel, 
The Life of Pi

Dear Richard Parker,

I’m so grateful for the clerical error which saves me from addressing you by your given name, Thirsty. In my imagination, I prefix it with the word, blood, and the result doesn’t bode well for my safety and longevity.

Now the name Richard Parker lulls me into thinking that I am addressing a gentleman, not a Royal Bengal Tiger weighing 450 pounds who might see his next meal in me.

Though captured as a cub and bred in captivity, you retain your bloodthirsty instincts. Going by the law of nature, Pi should never have survived long enough to spend seven months at sea with you. That too, on a lifeboat. So why didn’t his story end there?

The fact that Pi’s father managed the Pondicherry Zoo where you resided, and that you were used to alpha males, in the guise of zookeepers and trainers, dominating you might explain a lot. When Pi sought to keep you under control through cues that he had seen his father use, you took it in your stride; it was familiar stuff. But that still doesn’t account for how you toned down the fearsomeness for his benefit.

Pi owes you a great debt. Without you around to challenge him and keep his senses razor sharp, he would have long since given way to despair. There was so much that was wrong in his life then: the lack of food and water, the storms, winds and predators at sea, and prolonged exposure to the elements.

And then to spice the mix up, there was you.

The poor chap just couldn’t relax. Despite his confusion and grief (he’d lost his family, remember?) he still had his wits about him. He realized that if he let his guard down, none of the other problems he faced would plague him for long.

The survival instinct reminded him of the training exercises he’d seen his father pull off, and in repeating them successfully, he was heartened. His situation was still uncomfortable and dangerous, but now he had something he didn’t have before: Hope.

In feeding himself and you, he found a new purpose, a reason to keep on living, the motivation to fight the odds. Time passed by more swiftly, with you around to keep him challenged.

He acknowledged the debt towards the end of the book, when you were both washed ashore in Mexico. You turned your back on him and stalked away. That action affected him more than the experience of drifting at sea had.

Of course, the Japanese investigators didn’t think you were real. They figured you and Pi were one, that you were his primal, animalistic side that kept him alive when nothing else could. The side that surfaced when the despair of hunger and loneliness drove him crazy.

I don’t know which version I believe.

Richard Parker, the tiger, sounds more fun.

Richard Parker, the reflection in the mirror, isn’t.

What’s the truth?

Only you know, but you’re so repressed yourself you won’t let on.


  1. Dropping in from the A to Z and a link on Diane Coto's blog FictonZeal.com. Happy blogging.

  2. I like the name Richard Parker too. Makes the tiger a little less scary. Some mistakes turn out good. Nice post.

  3. I love Richard Parker, the name and the tiger. We have named a cat in our building by his name :) Beautifully expressed.

  4. Glad to know you agree, Suzy, but he looked majestic enough to deserve the name.

  5. Yes, Janaki, the name suits the tiger perfectly.

  6. I saw the blog title pop up on my dashboard..and I'm thinking..who is Richard Parker! and then I come here and it brings a smile to my lips!

    What a memorable movie it was! and the name made it all the more lovely! lovely post!



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