Chapter no 71

Life of Pi

To those who should ever find themselves in a predicament such as I was in, I would recommend the following program:

  1. Choose a day when the waves are small but regular. You want a sea that will put on a good show when your lifeboat is broadside to it, though without capsizing your boat.
  2. Stream your sea anchor full out to make your lifeboat as stable and comfortable as possible. Prepare your safe haven from the lifeboat in case you should need it (you most likely will). If you can, devise some means of bodily protection. Almost anything can make a shield. Wrapping clothes or blankets around your limbs will make for a minimal form of armour.
  3. Now comes the difficult part: you must provoke the animal that is afflicting you. Tiger, rhinoceros, ostrich, wild boar, brown bear—no matter the beast, you must get its goat. The best way to do this will most likely be to go to the edge of your territory and noisily intrude into the neutral zone. I did just that: I went to the edge of the tarpaulin and stamped upon the middle bench as I mildly blew into the whistle. It is important that you make a consistent, recognizable noise to signal your aggression. But you must be careful. You want to provoke your animal, but only so much. You don’t want it to attack you outright. If it does, God be with you. You will be torn to pieces, trampled flat, disembowelled, very likely eaten. You don’t want that. You want an animal that is piqued, peeved, vexed, bothered, irked, annoyed—but not homicidal. Under no circumstances should you step into your animal’s territory. Contain your aggression to staring into its eyes and hurling toots and taunts.
  4. When your animal has been roused, work in all bad faith to provoke a border intrusion. A good way of bringing this about in my experience is to back off slowly as you are making your noises. BE SURE NOT TO

    BREAK EYE CONTACT! As soon as the animal has laid a paw in your territory, or even made a determined advance into the neutral territory, you have achieved your goal. Don’t be picky or legalistic as to where its paw actually landed. Be quick to be affronted. Don’t wait to construe—misconstrue as fast as you can. The point here is to make your animal understand that its upstairs neighbour is exceptionally persnickety about territory.

  5. Once your animal has trespassed upon your territory, be unflagging in your outrage. Whether you have fled to your safe haven off the lifeboat or retreated to the back of your territory on the lifeboat, START BLOWING YOUR WHISTLE AT FULL BLAST and IMMEDIATELY TRIP

    THE SEA ANCHOR. These two actions are of pivotal importance. You must not delay putting them into effect. If you can help your lifeboat get broadside to the waves by other means, with an oar for example, apply yourself right away. The faster your lifeboat broaches to the waves, the better.

  6. Blowing a whistle continuously is exhausting for the weakened castaway, but you must not falter. Your alarmed animal must associate its increasing nausea with the shrill cries of the whistle. You can help things move along by standing at the end of your boat, feet on opposing gunnels, and swaying in rhythm to the motion imparted by the sea. However slight you are, however large your lifeboat, you will be amazed at the difference this will make. I assure you, in no time you’ll have your lifeboat rocking and rolling like Elvis Presley. Just don’t forget to be blowing your whistle all the while, and mind you don’t make your lifeboat capsize.
  7. You want to keep going until the animal that is your burden—your tiger, your rhinoceros, whatever—is properly green about the gills with seasickness. You want to hear it heaving and dry retching. You want to see it lying at the bottom of the lifeboat, limbs trembling, eyes rolled back, a deathly rattle coming from its gaping mouth. And all the while you must be shattering the animal’s ears with the piercing blows of your whistle. If

    you become sick yourself, don’t waste your vomit by sending it overboard. Vomit makes an excellent border guard. Puke on the edges of your territory.

  8. When your animal appears good and sick, you can stop. Seasickness comes on quickly, but it takes a long while to go away. You don’t want to overstate your case. No one dies of nausea, but it can seriously sap the will to live. When enough is enough, stream the sea anchor, try to give shade to your animal if it has collapsed in direct sunlight, and make sure it has water available when it recovers, with anti-seasickness tablets dissolved in it, if you have any. Dehydration is a serious danger at this point. Otherwise, retreat to your territory and leave your animal in peace. Water, rest and relaxation, besides a stable lifeboat, will bring it back to life. The animal should be allowed to recover fully before going through steps 1 to 8 again.
  9. Treatment should be repeated until the association in the animal’s mind between the sound of the whistle and the feeling of intense, incapacitating nausea is fixed and totally unambiguous. Thereafter, the whistle alone will deal with trespassing or any other untoward behaviour. Just one shrill blow and you will see your animal shudder with malaise and repair at top speed to the safest, furthest part of its territory. Once this level of training is reached, use of the whistle should be sparing.

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