We return to Pi’s Pondicherry narrative, and he remembers his favorite teacher, Mr. Satish Kumar. Mr. Kumar is an atheist communist with whom Pi feels a deep kinship. In fact, Pi says, atheists are simply people of a different faith, with strong beliefs. It is agnostics, full of doubt and uncertainty and devoid of faith, whom Pi cannot stomach.
Pi describes in vivid detail the day his father fed a live goat to a caged tiger to teach Pi and his brother, Ravi, about the danger posed by wild animals. But, according to a sign in the zoo, the most dangerous animal of all is man. Piscine explains flight distance—the minimum distance at which an animal will tolerate a potential predator or enemy. Getting animals used to the presence of humans, he continues, is the key to the smooth running of a zoo and may be accomplished by creating a good enclosure, providing food and water, and knowing each animal well. Taken care of in this way, zoo animals rarely if ever run back to the wild. On the exceptional occasions when they do, it is usually because someone or something has invaded their territory and frightened them away.
Pi discusses territoriality at greater length, explaining that animals are fiercely defensive of their particular area. They also respect the territory of other creatures, which is why lion tamers enter the cage first, establishing their dominance before the lions are brought in. Pi shifts into an explanation of why socially inferior animals—omega animals—tend to be the most obedient, loyal, and faithful to their masters. They have the most to gain from a good relationship with an alpha creature.
The author reasserts his voice and describes the Patel house in Canada, which is full of various religious iconography. He sees Hindu, Christian, and Islamic paintings, statues, devotional articles, photographs, clothes, and books. Pi keeps the Bible on his nightstand.
Pi says he was born into Hinduism, becoming involved in its rites and rituals as an infant. He describes his constant hunger for Prasad, a Hindu offering to God, and the way his hands automatically move into prayer position. He discusses the Hindu philosophy of life, which he embraces: “That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and that which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing.” Pi states that he has always been and will always be a Hindu.
Pi describes how, one day on holiday, when he was fourteen, he came across a church and, although he had never been in one before, stepped across the threshold. Inside, Father Martin told him the story of Christ on the cross, which Pi found very strange. When he asked to hear another story, Father Martin responded that Christianity has only one story, and the crux of it is love. Soon after, Pi decided to become a Christian; Father Martin told him he already was.
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