I’m in New Delhi, India this week on a short work trip. I’ve been here several times but I always end up learning something new about how people live and work in this country of 1.2 billion people. Yup, 1.2 BILLION. It’s crazy…so many people, everywhere! [tidbit: India is about a third of the size of the US]
Today is an Indian holiday. It’s a religious one where families go to the temple to worship the God Shiva for health, wealth and happiness. On my way somewhere we got stuck in traffic…not unusual at all if you know India! As our car got closer to the site of the bottleneck, I noticed this huge line that was formed to get into a park where this gigantic statue of the God Shiva stood. It is probably 100 feet tall and given that the religious holiday was to honor Shiva, people were lined up for what seemed like miles to pay their respects.
We were stuck in traffic and the car slowed down so that I could take the photo here. Upon first glance, it appears very chaotic. The line is not a straight one…just a suggestion I think. Lots of different colors, smells and sounds were coming out of this massive site where thousands had come to observe their God. There was confusion everywhere. Parents didn’t seem to be paying much attention to their kids running in and out of the crowd. Vendors were hawking Dora the Explorer balloons, food and even a hand propelled Ferris wheel…yes a tiny Ferris wheel about 6 feet high where little kids could barely get into which was propelled by a guy (I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture…it was really fascinating!).
Let me tell you – I would have a panic attack if my kids were getting lost in the crowd…here parents didn’t seem to give it a second thought. They felt comfortable with kids behaving as…kids do…playing around amidst the chaos with no fear that something bad might happen.
Others double parked their cars to let off family members to cut into the line. Some came on motorcycles, weaving in and out of the traffic ultimately finding a spot to park on the side of the highway where no formal parking actually existed.
Seeing all of this chaos that I have been accustomed to now in India, I realize that Indians are pros at handling disorder. They know how to embrace the chaos. They’re used to it! From standing in line at the place of worship to driving on the roads where no rules are observed to the way business meetings always start late and sometimes end early…people here are used to constant confusion. And they’re ok with that. They are not surprised by it nor are they overwhelmed by it.
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What I learned today is that for me to embrace the chaos of my own life back home in the US, from trying to adapt to the uncertainty of a normal career path to trying to figure out how to plan for my kids education to just life in general—that I have to take a lesson from the country of my birth (India) and transplant it to the life I have in the country I call home (America).
The whole concept of an orderly life and the expectation of the notion of A=B=C is nothing but an illusion. Life doesn’t work that way. It is not linear or logical as my mind tries to make it out to be. And that’s why I get stuck. Because I try to look at things at work and my home life as –well, if I do this, I expect that to happen…and am so often disappointed when it doesn’t.
The assumptions we make when evaluating a life decision are flawed because it doesn’t factor in the chaotic and disorderly nature of life…that everything is moving and given the interconnectivity of it all, anything small can throw a wrench in our best laid plans.
This is the secret of how people here in India embrace the chaos. Their plans seem to be flexible. They focus on the outcome, not the process. They don’t necessarily have to be in a straight line. They don’t mind if there are no markings on the road to keep cars in their own lanes. As long as you get to where you are going…that’s all that matters….not how you got there.
I believe that learning to accept that disorder and chaos is part of our natural life is the key to being able to move forward despite it all. It helps us realize that whatever action we take, we’ll get there just fine. And that’s the best part of learning to embrace the chaos…is going with the flow and enjoying the ride.
Rule #1: Expect and Accept Chaos | Embrace the Chaos! | Bob Miglani