In Canada, novelist Yann Martel meets Pi Patel, who has been told that Pi’s life story would be a good subject for a book. Pi tells his story to Yann:
Pi’s father names him Piscine Molitor after the swimming pool in France. In secondary school in Pondicherry, he adopts the name “Pi” (the Greek letter, π) to avoid the sound-alike nickname “Pissing Patel”. He is raised Hindu family with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, but at 12 years old, is introduced to Christianity and then Islam, and decides to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God”. His mother supports his desire to grow, but his father, a rationalist, tries to convert him. Pi’s family owns a zoo, and Pi takes interest in the animals, especially a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After Pi gets dangerously close to Richard Parker, his father forces him to witness the tiger killing a goat.
When Pi is 16, his father announces that they must move to Canada, where he intends to settle and sell the animals. The family books passage with the animals on a Japanese freighter. During a storm, the ship founders while Pi is on deck. He tries to find his family, but a member of the crew throws him into a lifeboat. A freed zebra jumps onto the boat with him, breaking its leg as it lands. The ship is submerged into the Mariana Trench with the crew and his family. Pi sees what appears to be a survivor, but it turns out to be Richard Parker, which evades his efforts to keep him out of the boat.