Headline June 26, 2017/ ''' JOURNEYS AND JOURNALS '''


WHEN RAJIV SURENDRA   -the ripping mathelte who stole the hearts of millions with his performance in  Kevin G  in the film  MEAN GIRLS-

Was approached on the set insisting that he read  Yann Martel's  book  : Life of a Pi,  -he had no idea it would completely change his life.

The similarities between himself and Martel's protagonist  drew his unbound wonderment. As he writes in his autobiography  *The Elephant's in My Backyard*,  both he and Pi were of Tamil descent, ''five foot five, thin framed, with a  coffee colored complexion''.

Both were raised by Hindu parents, but were fascinated by other religions and enthusiastically took up practicing different faiths growing up. 

Surendra grew up with a  Zoo near enough that he could hear elephants trumpeting through his bedroom window while Pi, the son of a shopkeepers, lived in a zoo itself.

After being marooned at sea, the fictional Pi ends up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough  [Suendra's neighborhood] , and starts studying at the University of Toronto, in St. Michael's College, where Surendra was enrolled as a student.

In Surendra's own words, ''this was bat shit crazy [....]  the book, in some creepy, strange way was a story about a guy lost like me, who embarks on a unintentional journey that magnifies every element of who he was, and puts those qualities to  test through the struggle of survival.  What was I suppose to make of this?''

Some months after he finished the novel  Surendra  found out it was being adapted into a film and  there was  no question in his  mind   about auditioning  -for Surendra,  the role  of  Pi was meant for him.

''This was the part that I had longed for,  the role that defied all of Hollywood's conventional stereotypes   - the title character actually being a skinny little brown kid  [....]   finally, finally,  this was the role of a lifetime...........the stuff that legendary movies are made of-

Filming on location in India, but not modern India,  vintage India.   ''For Surendra, this would compensate for all the countless solutions he had previously given for nerdy Indian kids or brown males characterized as terrorists or assistant terrorists.

For once in his life, he would be trying out for a character that celebrated his heritage and the colour of his skin instead of using them as props to sensationalize the plot line.

He needed to get this role, and for that to happen, he needed to become the living, breathing Pi. With that in mind, Surendra embarked on a  10 year journey to land the part of his dreams.

What started as a research for acting role became a soul-searching process. Although he already physically resembled a Pi, Surendra dove head first into studying and embodying all elements of Pi's life to obtain authenticity.

Booking a  one way  ticket to India, he enrolled himself in the same school in Pondicherry mentioned in the book in order to understand Pi's environment, his accent, his culture   -and ended up learning more about his own roots as a result.

Pi was an excellent swimmer, so Surendra faced his worst fears and started taking swimming lessons.  

His constant communications with Martel in an effort to understand the essence behind the plot of the book and the meaning of  Pi's journey and struggles produced a relationship between the author and the actor that transcended  its initial purpose.  

However, anyone who has seen the film  Life of Pi knows: that Surendra was not cast in it. Ten years of hard work for one acting job, which ultimately he did not get, broke him, and he ran away to Germany to work as a Nanny.

The time away helped him make important self-discoveries,  figuring out who he was, where his interests lay, where his identity was   -questions he had constantly overlooked during the entire time he had obsessed over landing the role of Pi.

He moved back to Toronto where he found his calling as a calligraphy artist and began to make sense of the significance of behind the journey. 

Piece by piece, he brought his story together, which started with such focus towards an end goal, but instead resulted in him uncovering parts of himself and his existence that had been obscure before.

*The Elephants in My Backyard*  follows a unique style of writing  -not only does it feel like the author is relaying his feelings as informally and as openly as he possibly can, but he also includes bits and pieces of himself throughout.

Peppered with  hand-drawn images, emails and notes, letters and lists, the book almost reads like a personal diary filled with memorabilia, serving as a reminder to all that the journey towards an end goal-

Often holds more meaning than the achievement of the goal itself.

With many thanks and appreciations for reviewer  Tahreem Khalied : Financial Support Specialist  Yale University.

With Eid Blessings and  respectful dedication to  All the Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers, and every Human being in the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and  Twitter-!E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011 :

''' The Journey '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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