As a teenager in Pondicherry, India, Pi Patel's father is the proprietor of the Pondicherry Zoo, where Pi learns much of the workings and raising of animals.
At age 16, Pi's father decides that Mrs. Gandhi's (the leader of India) political actions are unsavory and closes up the zoo to move to Toronto.The animals are loaded onto the same boat that the family will take to reach Winnipeg, Canada. On the journey to North America, the boat sinks.
As the only survivor of the shipwreck, he's stuck in a lifeboat with a dying zebra and a hyena. Pi sees another survivor floating in the water and only after throwing them a life preserver and pulling them aboard does he realize that "Richard Parker" is actually the 400 pound tiger from his father's zoo.
So, upon reentering the boat, he wedges the tarpaulin up with an oar and decides he might survive if he can stay on top and keep Richard Parker beneath it. Over the next week an Orangutan arrives as well and the four animals interplay carefully, eating each other until there is only Richard Parker left.
Over the course of the next 7 months aboard the lifeboat, Pi hides on a makeshift raft behind the boat and begins the process of taming Richard Parker with a whistle and treats from the sea, as well as marking his portion of the boat. He begins to get close to the tiger, developing the kind of bond a zookeeper does with his menagerie.
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.