Life of Pi began in Tpuram zoo

Aswin J Kumar TNN

SETTING SAIL FROM THE SOUTH: Yann Martel had visited the zoo over a decade ago to discover the characters for his novel

Thiruvananthapuram: The longestserving employee at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo doesnt know about Yann Martel,the author of Life of Pi.Radhakrishnan Nair,now the zoo-supervisor,however,brushes up images of a lean foreigner who would stop by the animal enclosures,gaze at the animals for a long time and scribble notes.
Radhakrishnan,who was then a zoo-keeper,never talked to the foreigner.He would not have known that it was a Canadian author who had come to the Thiruvananthapuram zoo more than a decade ago to discover the characters for his novel,Life of Pi,which would later win the Man Booker prize and would be released as a motion picture.
Now,Radhakrishnan has a twinkle in his eyes for he knows that the zoo where he works and the animals he and his friends had once fed and reared inspired a writer to produce an acclaimed piece of fiction read and reverred worldwide.Martel broaches about Thiruvananthapuram zoo in his essay How I wrote Life of Pi.
I was in need of a story.My mind was exploding with ideas.I could hardly keep up with them.In jubilant minutes,whole portions of the novel emerged fully formed: the lifeboat,the animals,the intermingling of the religious and the zoological,the parallel stories.He also writes as to how he came to India and interviewed the director of Thiruvananthapuram zoo and spent time there.We never knew he was a writer.We had taken him for a student, says Radhakrishnan.
Some of the feted characters which he derived from the Thiruvananthapuram zoo and shaped for his fiction are now missing in the zoo.In 1996,when Martel visited the zoo,there were five tigers,three hyenas and two zebras.Now the zoo does not have any hyena.There is a lone zebra and the orangutan is still missing.
It was Mohammad Sali,who was then the director of the zoo,who would take Martel around the vast acreage of the zoo.Sali would explain to Martel how a hyena hunted down its prey,buried it beneath the earth and ate the putrid flesh.
He would introduce him to Rugmini,the Bengal tigress who was the most pampered animal in the zoo at that time,and also to her family members Raja,Rani and Mohan.
He carried a note book and camera.Whatever I told him,he jotted down so fast,and I could never read his notes, Sali told TOI on Monday.
Martel spent four to five hours every day in the zoo.He would walk to the bus stop and then take a bus to Ponmudy and would again turn up the next day, recollects Sali,who is yet to read Life of Pi.I was happy when I came to know that the book won the Man Booker prize.Now I would want to watch the movie, he smiles.