The only things I own which are still worth what they cost me are my travel memories…the mind-pictures of the places which I have been hoarding like a happy miser. ~Burton Homes
This past Saturday, my wife and I sat on our newly purchased double recliner, love seat (I love recliners for their comfort and their unique ability to adjust to my many levels of laziness from seated to almost flat out prone), glasses of Pinot Noir in our hands while watching the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. It’s a fun movie about a group of British retirees who decide to outsource their retirement to exotic India. The fact that my wife and I had both been to India heavily influenced our choice to watch the movie.
For me, the movie had many predictable elements. The people ‘find’ themselves or ‘rediscover’ themselves against the back drop of the chaos known as India. The predictability actually enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
India is a place the knocks a Westerner out of his/her comfort zone on a continuous basis. It is impossible to prepare for the experience. One can watch moves and read books and talk to people who have been there but the mind still cannot grasp the sensory onslaught that will confront it through actual experience. How can you explain to people raised on eating cows that cows have the right of way in streets and, if the cow chooses to lay in the middle of the street, it’s the responsibility of the vehicles to carefully navigate around them without causing them any disturbance? One might as well explain the concept of air to a fish.
As I watched the story unfold on the screen I relived parts of my life from when I first visited India in 2006 through the eighteen months from 2013 to 2014 when I called India home. I remembered the first time I saw traffic that treated rules of the road as suggestions of the road, where stop lights are routinely ignored, and it was required to look in all four directions when crossing a one way road.
The more I watched the movie the stronger the nostalgia welled up inside. I found myself missing the teeming masses with personal space less than 1/2 that of my comfort zone. I found myself craving the seemingly infinite variety of flavors I savored in a cuisine that could find me happy being a vegetarian. I wanted to again inhale the incense while walking barefoot in the ancient temples in the footsteps of the millions that visit annually, in the footsteps of the billions that have walked in still active temples built more than 2000 years ago.
Most of all, I have come to miss the chaos. Before moving to India, I was a dweller of the suburbs, an advocate of the paradise bounded by peaceful, quiet, tree lined streets. During my 18 months living in Pune, India, I learned to plug into energy generated by the chaos. I spent many hours sitting outside at a local coffee shop channeling that energy into the greatest creative output in my life.
India has irrevocably changed me. I live in Chicago proper now in an area that’s much more chaotic than the suburbs but no where near the chaos level I experienced in India. Without the chaos I have difficult tapping into the energy I need to write, to create. I frequently go out to coffee shops where people are milling about to tap into the energy. I feel a pull toward the more energetic parts of Chicago, areas where I frequently stop on my bike rides just to revel in the chaos.
I want a job in the downtown business district so I can ride the ‘L’ and walk shoulder to shoulder in the streets day in and day out with Chicago’s teeming masses. This couldn’t replace the chaotic energy of India but it might just keep sufficient energy in my creativity tank so I find creative works pouring out of me instead of me having to willfully extract them.
Watching the movie, my heart weeped nostalgic. It felt viscerally how much I miss India. Thankfully, I will soon be going there on a two week business trip. I can’t wait to again live with chaos. Unfortunately, I sold the motorcycle I owned while living there so won’t be able to immerse myself in the insane traffic which is chaotic energy in it’s richest form.