Moving Through Chaos

(image via Roman Fox)

(image via Roman Fox)

I have just returned from two weeks in Udaipur, India. If you have never been, the driving is not to be believed. It is living chaos theory.

Imagine the following. A road of roughly three unmarked lanes. The traffic consists of overloaded trucks, buses and cars with people hanging out of all possible openings. Lots of dogs walk aimlessly, jumping aside from speeding jitney's and motorbikes (many with up to five on board including infants on sideways sitting mothers). There is lots of foot traffic as well skirting the vehicular traffic...and elephants. Add in, of course, the ubiquitous cows, which are everywhere and wander with total impunity and you have some sense of the opening scene. No one stays in their lanes, or follows a known speed limit, or even some semblance of an approximate side of the road. Everyone moves in cramped spaces around windy curves at fast speeds constantly beeping their horns to let others know their position.

The drivers come so close to everything else on the road I am left gasping and praying the entire time. My mind is a mantra of calm. “I’m going to die,” is all I keep saying over and over. It’s inhale exhale for me, close the eyes and go into denial.

My client, who is Indian-Canadian told me when she first came to Udaipur, she decided to take the plunge and learn to drive in India. When she began she of course drove the way she had been taught--that is like a defensive driving westerner. She'd check her rear view and side-view mirrors, always scanning the surrounding territory.

Her Indian friends were horrified. “What are you doing?", they shouted. "Don’t look around. The system only works if you look forward to where you are going. Don’t look to the side or back. You have to trust others will do the same and everyone will adjust.”

Somehow, of course it does, and the craziness works. The traffic develops a kind of organic pattern that allows constant adjustment. It is far from perfect, but that it works at all is a testament to the power of collective individuality.

I think this is great advice for moving through chaos. When you find yourself in an environment that doesn't make sense, when the patterns cannot be figured out, and when potential danger seems to be coming from all directions, follow the driving tips from India. Eyes forward to where you are going, do not look back, do not over react, and above all trust that others will do the same and adjust around you.

TravelDavid Baum