Chapter no 54

Life of Pi

It rained all night. I had a horrible, sleepless time of it. It was noisy. On the rain catcher the rain made a drumming sound, and around me, coming from the darkness beyond, it made a hissing sound, as if I were at the centre of a great nest of angry snakes. Shifts in the wind changed the direction of the rain so that parts of me that were beginning to feel warm were soaked anew. I shifted the rain catcher, only to be unpleasantly surprised a few minutes later when the wind changed once more. I tried to keep a small part of me dry and warm, around my chest, where I had placed the survival manual, but the wetness spread with perverse determination. I spent the whole night shivering with cold. I worried constantly that the raft would come apart, that the knots holding me to the lifeboat would become loose, that a shark would attack.

With my hands I checked the knots and lashings incessantly, trying to read them the way a blind man would read Braille.

The rain grew stronger and the sea rougher as the night progressed. The rope to the lifeboat tautened with a jerk rather than with a tug, and the rocking of the raft became more pronounced and erratic. It continued to float, rising above every wave, but there was no freeboard and the surf of every breaking wave rode clear across it, washing around me like a river washing around a boulder. The sea was warmer than the rain, but it meant that not the smallest part of me stayed dry that night.

At least I drank. I wasn’t really thirsty, but I forced myself to drink. The rain catcher looked like an inverted umbrella, an umbrella blown open by the wind. The rain flowed to its centre, where there was a hole. The hole was connected by a rubber tube to a catchment pouch made of thick, transparent plastic. At first the water had a rubbery taste, but quickly the rain rinsed the catcher and the water tasted fine.

During those long, cold, dark hours, as the pattering of the invisible rain got to be deafening, and the sea hissed and coiled and tossed me about, I held on to one thought: Richard Parker. I hatched several plans to get rid of him so that the lifeboat might be mine.

Plan Number One: Push Hun off the Lifeboat. What good would that do?

Even if I did manage to shove 450 pounds of living, fierce animal off the lifeboat, tigers are accomplished swimmers. In the Sundarbans they have been known to swim five miles in open, choppy waters. If he found himself unexpectedly overboard, Richard Parker would simply tread water, climb

back aboard and make me pay the price for my treachery.

Plan Number Two: Kill Him with the Six Morphine Syringes. But I had no idea what effect they would have on him. Would they be enough to kill him? And how exactly was I supposed to get the morphine into his system? I could remotely conceive surprising him once, for an instant, the way his mother had been when she was captured—but to surprise him long enough to give him six consecutive injections? Impossible. All I would do by pricking him with a needle would be to get a cuff in return that would take my head off.

Plan Number Three: Attack Him with All Available Weaponry. Ludicrous.

I wasn’t Tarzan. I was a puny, feeble, vegetarian life form. In India it took riding atop great big elephants and shooting with powerful rifles to kill tigers. What was I supposed to do here? Fire off a rocket flare in his face? Go at him with a hatchet in each hand and a knife between my teeth? Finish him off with straight and curving sewing needles? If I managed to nick him, it would be a feat. In return he would tear me apart limb by limb, organ by organ. For if there’s one thing more dangerous than a healthy animal, it’s an injured animal.

Plan Number Four: Choke Him. I had rope. If I stayed at the bow and got the rope to go around the stern and a noose to go around his neck, I could pull on the rope while he pulled to get at me. And so, in the very act of reaching for me, he would choke himself. A clever, suicidal plan.

Plan Number Five: Poison Hun, Set Him on Fire, Electrocute Him. How?

With what?

Plan Number Six: Wage a War of Attrition. All I had to do was let the unforgiving laws of nature run their course and I would be saved. Waiting for him to waste away and die would require no effort on my part. I had supplies for months to come. What did he have? Just a few dead animals that would soon go bad. What would he eat after that? Better still: where would he get water? He might last for weeks without food, but no animal, however mighty, can do without water for any extended period of time.

A modest glow of hope flickered to life within me, like a candle in the night. I had a plan and it was a good one. I only needed to survive to put it into effect.

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