Who is Mr. Kumar in Life of Pi?

In Life of Pi, there are two Mr. Kumars. The first Mr. Kumar is Pi's atheist biology teacher. The second Mr. Kumar is a baker who teaches Pi about Islam.

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There are two Mr. Satish Kumars in Life of Pi. The first Mr. Kumar is Pi's rationalistic biology teacher at the Petit Séminaire. A Communist, he is the first openly atheist individual Pi has ever met.

The odd-looking Mr. Kumar likes to go to the zoo, which is where Pi runs into him. For Mr. Kumar, animals express the beauty of science and are evidence of a rational, scientifically ordered universe, "a triumph of logic and mechanics." Mr. Kumar, in fact, tells Pi that the zoo is his "temple." While for Pi, religious exploration is at the center of life, Mr. Kumar dismisses that realm entirely. When he complains to Pi about the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, whom Pi's parents also dislike, Pi responds that religion will save them. Mr. Kumar, however, takes a diametrically opposite point of view, stating, "Religion is darkness."

Mr. Kumar makes allusions to the bloody religious divisions in India between Muslims and Hindus and asks where God is in that. He says that it was science and his faith in a knowable, ordered universe—not God—that saved him.

Although Pi remains centered in religion, he calls Mr. Kumar his favorite teacher. He admires his honesty in insisting on atheism, rather than hedging his bets on the "doubts" of an agnostic. Pi says he learned from Mr. Kumar that atheists are his "brothers and sisters of a different faith."

At the age of fifteen, Pi meets the second Mr. Satish Kumar, a baker and Sufi, a disciple of the mystical branch of Islam. From this Mr. Kumar, Pi learns about Islam and is inspired by the baker's loving relationship with God. The two pray together often in Mr. Kumar's "hovel" of a house, and Pi describes often leaving "feeling heavy with glory." Pi comes to appreciate the ritualistic aspect of Islam and learns that it is a religion of "brotherhood and devotion," adopting it as his own.

Though the two Mr. Kumars couldn't be more opposite in terms of their religious beliefs, Pi notes their similarities and equal impact the two mentors have made on his life, stating that "Mr. and Mr. Kumar were the prophets of [his] Indian youth."

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