by Michael Niewodowski
#99 Life of Pi by Yann Martel (#49 on The List)
A boy adrift on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean…..with a Bengal tiger. I admit; I only had to see this image from the preview for the upcoming movie version of Life of Pi, and I rushed to the library to check out the book. Yann Martel’s first novel is a spellbinding adventure story. Part survival tale, part religious contemplation, it is a book that I would recommend to anyone with an adventurous spirit.
Life of Pi follows the story of Piscine (Pi) Molitor Patel, the son of a zookeeper, growing up in Pondicherry, India. Even as a young teenager, Pi has a daring character; he simultaneously becomes a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, much to the chagrin of his parents, not to mention the pandit, priest, and imam. Pi quotes Gandhi: “All religions are true.” When Pi and his family (mother, father, brother and most of the zoo) set sail for a new life in Canada, Pi’s great adventure begins. Cast away on a lifeboat with a 450 pound tiger, Pi puts all of his endurance, survival skills, and faith to the test.
It is strange that in life, sometimes the greatest tragedy can lead to the greatest triumphs. Pi’s greatest tragedy lead to his triumph- conquering certain death either from the high seas or at the claws and teeth of a hungry tiger.
The greatest tragedy in my life led to one of my greatest triumphs. I am a September 11, 2001 terrorist attack survivor. I worked on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center up until 9/11. On that horrible day, I watched the towers burn from less than a mile away; a few hours before or after, I would have been in the building myself. As a direct result of this tragedy, for nearly the next decade, I dedicated myself to service. I took a job at a lower socio-economic high school, teaching Culinary Arts. I gave thousands of hours of my own time, and thousands of my own dollars to build a program from scratch. I gave heart and soul to my students and to the community. I know that I made a huge difference in many people’s lives; after my work as a father, I am most proud of my accomplishments as a teacher. This culminated in telling my story- this story- to a crowd of thousands of teachers, students, and industry leaders.
Pi’s high-seas adventure ended with a disappointment. However, the rest of his life became his greatest adventure yet. My teaching adventure ended with a disappointment. The rest of my life has just begun.
Life of Pi teaches us that we write our own Story.