He spent a year in India to write Man Booker winner Life of Pi, which is now a much-anticipated Hollywood film starring our own Irrfan and Tabu. But while Canadian author Yann Martel’s vivid experiences here introduced him to “faith”, they also revealed to him a contrasting picture he won’t forget.
“You know you can't fall asleep in India both morally and existentially - for better or for worse. In some ways, India is a horrible place. It's corrupt, violent; there are inequities that are disturbing. At the same time, the place gave us Mahatma Gandhi. It's a place of idealism and corruption,” Martel told us over the phone from New York.
Author Yann Martel
“India is the best and the worst of humanity. There's lot of extremism. Sometimes it gets a little exhausting,” said the 49-year-old, adding, “What India brought to me was that for first time I actually and seriously considered faith. What does it mean to believe in Vishnu and Allah and Buddha and Jesus? Religion in India for better or for worse is still a mainstream thing right? It's worst in the extremism of BJP and Shiv Sena and like that but then it's also positive. Because I was in India, it got me intrigued by religion and that also led me to write Life of Pi and also changed my life,” said the author.
The Indian creative fraternity does not mind Martel's outspokenness. "He has his right to say whatever he wants. He is not wrong though ... as a foreigner, he might have faced some problems," says author Chetan Bhagat. Filmmaker Rohan Sippy adds, "If he is pointing out something that’s wrong in our country, we should work on it." Ad man Prahlad Kakkar feels the same. "He is probably right. Everything is a pain in the a** here. You have to face corruption to get anything done. It's only when you have to work here that you realise that the government of India is largely responsible in making our lives difficult.”