Life of Pi is one of my most favourite books of all time. I used to have a copy, then I lent it to Ahgong and he lost it. (I have also watched the eponymous movie based on the book and enjoyed it immensely.)
This is one of my two favouritest bits of the book, which occurs when a Hindu pandit, Muslim imam and Christian priest confront the hero Pi and his parents on the boy’s multiple religions……
The pandit spoke first. “Mr. Patel, Piscine’s piety is admirable. In these troubled times it’s good to see a boy so keen on God. We all agree on that.” The imam and the priest nodded. “But he can’t be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim. It’s impossible. He must choose.”
“I don’t think it’s a crime, but I suppose you’re right,” Father replied.
The three murmured agreement and looked heavenward, as did Father, whence they felt the decision must come. Mother looked at me.
A silence fell heavily on my shoulders.
“Hmmm, Piscine?” Mother nudged me. “How do you feel about the question?”“Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God,” I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face. [emphasis mine]
My embarrassment was contagious. No one said anything. It happened that we were not far from the statue of Gandhi on the esplanade. Stick in hand, an impish smile on his lips, a twinkle in his eyes, the Mahatma walked. I fancy that he heard our conversation, but that he paid even greater attention to my heart. Father cleared his throat and said in a half-voice, “I suppose that’s what we’re all trying to do-love God.”
I thought it very funny that he should say that, he who hadn’t stepped into a temple with a serious intent since I had had the faculty of memory. But it seemed to do the trick. You can’t reprimand a boy for wanting to love God. The three wise men pulled away with stiff, grudging smiles on their faces.
Father looked at me for a second, as if to speak, then thought better, said, “Ice cream, anyone?” and headed for the closest ice cream wallah before we could answer. Mother gazed at me a little longer, with an expression that was both tender and perplexed.
That was my introduction to interfaith dialogue. Father bought three ice cream sandwiches. We ate them in unusual silence as we continued on our Sunday walk.
Ravi had a field day of it when he found out.
“So, Swami Jesus, will you go on the hajj this year?” he said, bringing the palms of his hands together in front of his face in a reverent namaskar. “Does Mecca beckon?” He crossed himself. “Or will it be to Rome for your coronation as the next Pope Pius?” He drew in the air a Greek letter, making clear the spelling of his mockery. “Have you found time yet to get the end of your pecker cut off and become a Jew? At the rate you’re going, if you go to temple on Thursday, mosque on Friday, synagogue on Saturday and church on Sunday, you only need to convert to three more religions to be on holiday for the rest of your life.”
And other lampoonery of such kind.
Yann Martel, Life of Pi