How I had failed to notice for two and a half days a 450-pound Bengal tiger in a lifeboat twenty-six feet long was a conundrum I would have to try to crack later, when I had more energy.
It seems orange—such a nice Hindu colour—is the colour of survival because the whole inside of the boat and the tarpaulin and the life jackets and the lifebuoy and the oars and most every other significant object aboard was orange.
I slept all morning. I was roused by anxiety. That tide of food, water and rest that flowed through my weakened system, bringing me a new lease on life, also brought me the strength to see how desperate my situation was. I awoke to the reality of Richard Parker. There was a tiger in my lifeboat. I could hardly believe it, yet I knew I had to. And I had to save myself.
For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene; it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.
I will tell you a secret: a part of me was glad about Richard Parker. A part of me did not want Richard Parker to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I
amgrateful. It’s the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn’t be alive today to tell you my story.