The Eyes Of The Beholder

“Self obsession and narcissism are second nature to us.”

– Aishwarya Rebelly

In a scene in the Oscar nominated movie Life of Pi, Pi Patel, the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, is absolutely thrilled by the latest addition to their zoo; the addition being Richard Parker, a royal Bengal Tiger. With a chunk of meat in hand and older brother Ravi in tow, Pi heads over to the enclosure to welcome the new arrival.

On the  inside of the tiger exhibit separating Richard Parker and Pi are two gates on either side of a hallway, once he turns the lever to open the farther one the tiger hears the sounds and slowly starts his stride towards Pi, who is now holding out the meat through the bars of the gate near him. Pi is unfazed, but Ravi bolts, too scared of what might happen.

Richard Parker continues walking towards Pi, curious and non-threatening. With Pi and the meat only  a step and a bite away, the animal simply stares. Pi stares back into its eyes, lost in them, a moment of utter stillness and tranquil silence passes before he is yanked back from the gate. The commotion makes Richard Parker dive back and run into the exhibit. Ravi had called their father. Father, setting with anger yells at Pi “You think that tiger is your friend? He is an animal, not a playmate!”. To this Pi replies, “Animals have souls. I’ve seen it in their eyes.”

Father resolves to teach Pi a lesson, he asks Selvam the caretaker to bring in a goat and tie it to the gate. He says, “Animals don’t think like we do; people who forget that get themselves killed. That tiger is not your friend. When you look into his eyes, you are seeing your own emotions reflected back at you – nothing else.” As the far gate is opened, Richard Parker comes back first slowly, then he runs to finally plunge and claws at the goat through the gate. A moment later he walks back, with the goat in his mouth.

Perhaps Father was right and animals function on pure survival instincts, or maybe Pi was right and animals did have souls, but the one thing that struck and stayed with me from this scene was that last dialogue. When Pi looked into the Tiger’s eyes, he saw his own emotions reflected back to him.

Maybe this is what we humans do with all our social interactions.

Each of our lives are a web of connections and stories. At the centre of every narrative is the self. Self obsession and narcissism are second nature to us. A simple example can prove this. When you look at a group photo even when it is with those dearest to you, your best friends or your family, the first person you still look at, is you. So it is obvious that in every conversation we have, we seek ourselves.

We think that our friend wants to prove us wrong, but often he only wants to prove himself right. We think that a person is out to get us, but again maybe she only wants to save her skin. Because just like you are the hero of your story, your friend is too of their own and more often than not their actions towards you are more about them than about you.

This leads me back to the dialogue, maybe just like Pi saw his own emotions in Richard Parker’s eyes, we see and hear what we want to in every situation. When you think highly of yourself, every person will only prove it to you. A friend’s grammatical error is smug realisation of a mistake you’ll never make and when you err it is not a big deal. Your successes are magnified and your failures minimized.

However, when your self worth is low, the opposite is true. A simple joke directed at you takes on an elephant size and becomes an attack at your personality. So maybe when you think everyone is against you and doesn’t give you the respect you deserve, maybe it is you who needs to start respecting yourself more.

Maybe the semi philosophical quote “Love Yourself” written over a scenic background that often appears on your Facebook feed has some truth to it, for when you do, you’ll seek and find love and respect from those around you too.  

Cover Designed by Adarsh Salagame

Edited by Harsha Sista

Article Written by Aishwarya Rebelly


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