'Life of Pi' Author Calls India 'Horrible' but Where he Also Considered 'Faith'
NEW DELHI – Canadian author Yann Martel's views on the time he spent in India writing his award winning book Life of Pi have made news here.
Martel was quoted in the Hindustan Times newspaper stating: “You know you can't fall asleep in India both morally and existentially - for better or for worse. In some ways, India is a horrible place. It's corrupt, violent; there are inequities that are disturbing. At the same time, the place gave us Mahatma Gandhi. It's a place of idealism and corruption.”
Life of Pi was published in 2001 and revolves around an Indian boy - Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel - from the picturesque South Indian coastal town of Pondicherry who survives a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger.
The Man Booker Prize winning novel has been adapted for the big screen by director Ang Lee featuring a star cast that includes leading Indian actor Irrfan Khan, actress Tabu and 17-year-old newcomer Suraj Sharma in the lead role.
Martel, 49, spent a year in India to write the novel which was first published by Knopf Canada.
“India is the best and the worst of humanity. There's a lot of extremism. Sometimes it gets a little exhausting,” he said, adding, “What India brought to me was that for first time I actually and seriously considered faith. What does it mean to believe in (the Hindu God) Vishnu and Allah and Buddha and Jesus? Religion in India, for better or for worse, is still a mainstream thing, right? It's worst in the extremism of (political parties) BJP and Shiv Sena and like that but then it's also positive. Because I was in India, it got me intrigued by religion and that also led me to write Life of Pi and also changed my life.”
A selection of comments quoted by the newspaper from Indian personalities give Martel his right to express his views on the country. “If he is pointing out something that’s wrong in our country, we should work on it,” said film-maker Rohan Sippy. Leading commercials director Prahlad Kakkar added, “Martel is probably right. Everything is a pain in the a** here. You have to face corruption to get anything done. It's only when you have to work here that you realise that the government of India is largely responsible in making our lives difficult.”
Expectedly, the story has drawn a flurry of online comments on the Hindustan Times website. “I agree with him,” said a post by Tina. “Females are not given a chance to live by their own parents and murdered before and after birth... No woman is safe in India. They are treated worse than animals. I am ashamed to call India "Bharat Mata" (Mother India) where no sister, daughter, wife, mother feels safe.”
“India attracts some immensely and repulses others. It polarizes people. Yann Mantel's observations are unfortunately not so unique,” said a post by gul_ramani.