The Elephants in My Backyard

The Elephants in My Backyard

A Memoir

Book - 2016
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Rajiv Surendra (the rapping mathlete from Mean Girls ) read Life of Pi , discovered it was being adapted into a major motion picture, and embarked on a ten-year journey to land the role of a lifetime--but this is not a journey of goals and victories, this is a story of obsessively pursuing a dream, overcoming failure, and finding meaning in life.

n 2003, Rajiv Surendra was acting in Mean Girls , playing the beloved rapping mathlete Kevin Gnapoor, when a cameraman on set gave him a copy of Life of Pi , inadvertently changing the course of his life.
Rajiv dove into the novel, mesmerized by all the similarities between Pi and himself--they are both five-foot-five, with coffee-colored complexions; both share a South Indian culture; Pi lives in a zoo, and Rajiv grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, right beside the Toronto Zoo. When Rajiv learns that Life of Pi will be made into a major motion picture, he is convinced Pi is the role he is destined to play.
To land the role he knows he must embody the spirit of the sixteen-year-old Tamil schoolboy. In a great leap of faith, he quits university and buys a one-way ticket to India. Thus begins his enchanting and bumpy years-long journey from Toronto to the sacred stone temples of South India and the actual private school in Pondicherry that the fictional Pi attended, to rural Maine where Rajiv befriends a real-life castaway, and culminating in the most unexpected of places--the cobbled streets of Munich.
Poignant, funny, colorful, and absolutely unforgettable, The Elephants in My Backyard is an inspiring tale of taking risks and following one's dreams, of process and determination, and looking back on one's endeavors--be they successes or colossal defeats--with new appreciation and meaning.
Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780345816801
Characteristics: 267 pages :,illustrations, map, portrait ;,24 cm.


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Apr 27, 2017

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The flap copy of Rajiv Surendra’s book The Elephants in My Backyard lists a number of flowery adjectives to describe the story I held in my hands, but the phrase that struck me was “colossal defeats.”

The memoir chronicles the years-long journey of Surendra, known to the world as Kevin G the rapping mathlete from Mean Girls, in his quest to land the lead role in the film adaptation of Life of Pi. If you didn’t already know, a quick IMDB search reveals that this role eventually went to Suraj Sharma.

A Canadian memoir about failure? I was hooked from the start.

A producer on the set of Mean Girls is responsible for Surendra’s obsession. One innocuous day on set, he said to Surendra, “You should read this book. It’s about you.” On first read, the author wasn’t sure what he thought of Life of Pi. By the end of his memoir, the pages of Yann Martel’s story of survival and the power of stories was worn and dog-eared, having travelled to India and back in Surendra’s pocket.

The book’s conversational tone makes it easy to laugh out loud at the—and there are many—jokes. Surendra takes care to describe the people he meets with the love and affection of a good friend. When visiting new places, he defers to their histories with reverence. There is almost nothing Surendra can’t put a positive spin on. Except for germs. I positively squirmed when he went into detail about what he imagined was floating in the waters of public pools.

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