Free Study Guide for Life of Pi by Yann Martel Book Summary|
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Pi arranges to meet Mr. Kumar the Sufi at the zoo, but he is afraid he will not recognize him because Mr. Kumar is physically indistinct. He rubs his eyes as an excuse for not seeing Mr. Kumar approach. When he hears Mr. Kumar’s voice he greets the Sufi with the traditional Muslim phrase, “Salaam alaykum.” As they leisurely walk through the zoo, Mr. Kumar marvels at every creature, but especially the zebras. Just then, the other Mr. Kumar approaches. Pi gives pieces of carrot to each Mr. Kumar to feed to the zebras. The three enjoy the experience. Mr. Kumar remarks, “Equus burchelli boehmi.” The other Mr. Kumar remarks, “Allahu akbar.” Pi simply says, “It’s very pretty.”
Just as Mr. Kumar the biology teacher’s physical geometry corresponds to his scientism, Mr. Kumar the Sufi’s lack of physical distinction matches his spirituality. In the chapter, Pi does not have to distinguish Mr. Kumar from Mr. Kumar because their words and actions differentiate them. The biology teacher feeds the zebra with a sense of the function of the carrot. The Sufi feeds the zebra with a sense of wonder. The biology teacher’s remark is the scientific name of a Grant’s zebra, separating it from other varieties of zebra. The Sufi’s remark means “God is most Great,” including the zebra as part of the magnificence of God’s work. Pi’s comment is one of perfect contentment because he appreciates the perspectives of both Mr. Kumars.
This scene is a concrete illustration of the coexistence of science and religion motif. Each of the Kumars appreciates the perfection of the animals, with science and religion both having a place. While touring the zoo, the Sufi even quotes a passage from the Qur’an that is not about faith, but about knowledge. “In all this there are messages indeed for a people who use their reason.”
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Cassie, Donna L.. "TheBestNotes on Life of Pi".
. 09 May 2017