Although India is becoming the third largest economy in the world in any moment, this booming country is still foreign to many people. Whether for that reason or not, I frequently meet first-time travelers to India. Their impression of India is quite insightful sometimes. The word that most frequently used is ‘chaos.’
Good Ol’ Chaotic Days
My mother and mother-in-law visited us in India a couple of months ago and we traveled around. They are in the mid-sixties and my wife was worried how they would react to the chaos in India. Our itinerary consisted with a long-hour drive, an overnight train, a local flight, a boat ride on Ganga river, and occasional auto rickshaws. Since they are so used to the orderly Japanese society, where people make a line even at the massive disaster, we thought they might find some stress in India.
Interestingly, however, they enjoyed Indian disorder and found it ‘nostalgic.’ Japan was like that when they were a child. Cab drivers ignored lanes and speed limits. No one made a line at the station. People spit and peed on the street. It was the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 that changed Japan. Reckless taxi drivers (called Kamikaze Taxi, by the way.) disappeared. A line was formed and the street cleaned. We saw the same changes at the Beijing Olympics a few years ago. Will India follow them?
Chaos and Harmony
Another visitor from Japan described India with these two contrasting words – chaos and harmony. While traveling from the hotel to the office in a seemingly random traffic with hundreds of cars, bikes and rickshaws, he found it amazing that his speeding driver never hit anyone but miraculously dodged and overtook them by less than an inch. There he found intangible but indubitable harmony among all the moving objects on the road.
First time when I came to India, I was overwhelmed by that same chaos. Sitting in the cab, I felt like we were in an X-wing starfighter flying at the top speed in the maze of the Death Star with dozens of other fighters attacking us (or the Speeder Bike chase in the forest.) I though we would hit someone or get hit by someone in any minute. I didn’t see harmony. I just saw chaos.
Making Sense of Chaos
After staying here for almost one year, however, now I see harmony in the chaos. Drivers honk, flash, and eye contact when overtaking someone. They use hand gesture to communicate each other. They don’t follow the traffic right, but obey the traffic cop who is barely visible among crowded pedestrians.
Chaos looks chaotic until you find a pattern. It is a human nature to find a pattern in the noise. Pattern is good because it helps you predict the future. The world with pattern, or harmony, comforts you more than does the world without pattern, or chaos. However, in order for you to find harmony, first you need to jump into the chaos. If you stay in the comfortable harmonized world and avoid the chaos, the chaos will remain chaotic. Get out and jump in the chaos!
“Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos” by Doug Coupland