Broiled shrimp with pesto rosso polenta

Shrimp and the Life of Pi

So this weekend was for trying something new and revisiting an old friend. Make that twice. Shrimp has been part of my life for a long time, ever since I was a small child. But never in my life have I  broiled it the way I did yesterday. I deepened the gash that one makes to take out the vein, filled it with a mixture of melted butter and pesto rosso, which is essentially a sun-dried tomato pesto  (out of a jar folks!). Then I stuck it under the broiler until charred spots appeared on the shells. It was out of this world. The sauce that pooled around the shrimp was to die for as well! We ate it with polenta which takes about 20 minutes to simmer, which is just about enough time to prepare the shrimp.

Secondly, I watched Life of Pi the movie, thirteen years after I read the book. My sister gifted it to me as I was leaving India for the USA. Little did I know that I was never going back. But I remember sitting on that plane and identifying with Pi, not knowing where I was going but knowing that I had to be a survivor, no matter what! Sure there was a University at the end of the journey for me, an employeer, a project and a laboratory to do it in, but I knew not a soul. My family and the people who had been my friends until then, were not coming with me. I felt a bit like Pi adrift in the  middle of the Pacific, with Richard Parker watching him. Who was my Richard Parker? The whole damn world, that’s who!

Today I watched the movie and remembered that time once again. But this time, I watched it with the eyes of a story-teller. And I realized that the story is all about the whole business of story-telling.  About how you can tell a story in more than one way, and the best way need not be the one that is closer to reality.

In the end, the story that we like best will end up being reality for us. Does that make sense? Well think of that last scene (if you have seen the movie, otherwise imagine it) when Pi, after telling his visitor about the story of his survival,  asks him whether he prefers the version which features Richard Parker the Royal Bengal Tiger or the more prosaic one with the psychopathic cook. Our writer friend replies that he likes the one with the tiger. So did I. And I bet, so did you. Why? Because it is so much more uplifting.

There is much more hope and brightness in a world where you have to wage a game of wits against a majestic, beautiful yet dangerous Royal Bengal Tiger instead of a mindless battle against a boor and a psychopath – someone who depicts the worst of humanity.

Nature reminds us every now and then that we are nothing, inconsequential and helpless when faced with its fury, and so we have a weakness for stories where nature turns around and helps us somehow to prevail ,and to live to tell the story of our survival. Somewhere deep inside, an ancient part of our brain  feels reassured that God or Mother Nature or A Higher Force is watching over us. It feels safe and nurtured.