This story is told by Pi to a writer sitting in a café. It starts from when Pi was 16 and living in Pondicherry, India. His Father Santhosh owned a zoo, his mother worked as a housewife, and he had an elder brother Ravi. Pi’s full name is Piscine Molitor Patel, which was given to him by his father’s friend Francis Adirubasamy in honor of a swimming pool in France.
The nickname Pi was self-adopted when Pi was in school so that he could avoid being called “pissing.” Pi has two main interests in life: zoology and religion. Even though he was born a Hindu, he follows Christianity as well as Islam. Pi has been baptized as well as converted to Islam and openly practices all three faiths. Growing up in the zoo also made him very interested in animal psychology.
Pi’s family decides to sell the zoo and relocate to Canada due the political situation during the Gandhi regime. Fearing economic downturn, Pi’s father thinks that moving to Canada is a smart move for their future. The family sets sail on the Japanese ship Tsimtsum along with their zoo animals.
But tragedy strikes when the ship sinks and Pi is the only survivor on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger. Slowly, the animals eat each other and the only two members on the lifeboat left are Pi and the tiger Richard Parker. The only way Pi thinks he can survive with a tiger on board is to make a makeshift raft of oars.
Though it takes a while for Pi to become knowledgeable about boats and the sea, he makes it through his 227 day journey with a lot of struggle and faith in God. Though Pi was once a staunch vegetarian, he becomes a pescetarian on the Pacific. He trains himself to hunt and feed Parker and himself to avoid being eaten by the tiger.
Pi eventually trains Parker to obey him by utilizing a whistle-blowing technique and by making Parker seasick. During a major starvation period, Pi and Parker both go blind and meet another blind Frenchman on their journey who tries to attack Pi in order to eat him. But Parker eats the Frenchman and Richard and Pi both manage to survive. This incident brings tears to Pi’s eyes after he gets his sight back.
While floating on the Pacific, their lifeboat reaches a floating island made of algae. The beach is great for Parker because it’s inhabited by meercats. They both gain strength by feeding on them but Pi understands that the island is carnivorous so he has to get back to his lifeboat. Finally, after spending a few more days on the ocean, their lifeboat reaches the beaches of Mexico. After this, Richard Parker runs out into the jungle without even glancing back at Pi.
There are no final goodbyes, which disappoints Pi because he felt that he had developed a bond with Parker. But at the end of the day, Richard Parker was just an animal. Pi finds himself in the hospital where he was taken by the locals looking after his semi-comatose condition. When he regains consciousness, he has visitors. They are two Japanese men from the shipping company who have come to investigate what happened to their sunken ship.
Pi tells his story of survival with Richard Parker but the skeptical Japanese men find it unbelievable. Eventually, Pi just tells them a more plausible story with human replacements to the animals i.e. a cook instead of a hyena, a sailor instead of a zebra, and his mother instead of an orangutan. Pi tells them that both the stories reach the same outcome and asks them which one they preferred. They say the animal story, which is what they mention in their reports.
After recovering in Mexico, Pi finally reaches Canada. It is here that he follows his two main passions that helped him to survive those 227 days on the Pacific. Pi graduates in zoology and religion from the University of Toronto. In the present time where the story starts, Pi is married to Meena Patel and has two children Nick and Usha. He ends the story with Richard Parker and his disappointment about not getting a proper farewell from him.