Finding Peace in the Chaos



As I traveled this past month, taking endless trains, cars and planes across Asia and Europe, I found stillness in the chaos. And it was in this stillness that I enjoyed life; I found solace in the earthiness of life.

Sitting at a roundabout, in a temple, at a coffee shop, in the middle of a traffic jam or on a bench in a train station, I observed life around me.

Without any Internet connection, without a working phone, without the distractions of modern life, I could finally breathe freely. I could think without being provoked what to think. I could see, without needing to Google everything I saw.

I would prefer life that way every day. But bills must be paid, work must be completed and busyness is a way of existence for many of us in our 9-5 life.

So, to be still, inside and outside, is a luxury.

A quote attributed to Gandhi says, “This is a very busy day so I need to meditate two hours instead of one.”

Where much of our lives are spent dwelling on the trivial details of life, meditation helps us absorb the bigger picture. And seeing life whiz by you, be it in a foreign language or a familiar one, matters little.

So, it was in the chaos that I meditated. As a writer, we meditate with words.

Thus, I jotted the following:

The streets are cluttered with people, machines, animals, sights, sounds, smells. Commotion is at the doorstep. Voices fight each other for a short victory, vehicles fight each other for a short victory.

Little can be achieved without haggling — for a head of cauliflower, for a piece of fabric, for a pair of shoes, for a missing part for the car. Nothing is easy.

And yet, the mind is at ease. There’s a silence in the heart, a serenity in the soul.

Perhaps, it’s because after a long time, there’s a feeling of humility, of understanding that our role is so small in this grander story. We must flow with the river, not against — the opposite of what we’ve been taught at home.

We’re always encouraged to make ourselves exceptional, stand out from the crowd, place yourself higher on the ladder, a rung above the rest. But, here, no rung can let you escape the toils of humanity.

That’s because we all share the same road — literally. Whether we’re on one, two, three or four wheels, we must find space for each other. Otherwise, neither of us can move. There is a democracy to the system. And, yet, there is so much inequality buried in it.

The same is true when we walk. We must walk through the hordes of people. No escaping it. We must share the footpath, however broken it may be.

How is it that with so much clutter, I find such clarity? How is that with so much clutter, I find a sense of peace?

Perhaps, it’s the azadi (freedom) that the great poets used to write of. It’s that freedom from luxuries of the life, from the endless chase for the luxuries of life.

Here, none of that has any relevance. Here, the greatest luxury is a fresh breath of air, a sip of cold water, a bite of jaggery (sugar).

And yet, the poets used to write of a “tanhai,” a loneliness amid the hordes of people. Walking in a crowd, but walking alone, lost in your thoughts, they wrote. I sense that. And yet, it perishes quickly. Because I don’t want to escape it. I want to absorb it.

I want to sit at the roundabout, in the middle of the intersection, and watch the circle of life. I want to walk in the crowds and feel small, insignificant. I want to eat sitting on the earth. I want to wash my plate with coal, the ashes of the earth. I want to sit with the students on their rickety benches and learn the alphabet again — in their language, not mine.

Most of all, I want to stand quietly on the dirt path and see how far it’ll take me.

Because, it’s not about me. It’s about them. It’s about us. We are the clutter. And we are the solution.

That’s why I feel at peace.

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