India is Not Chaotic: Look at its Patterns

Devdutt Pattanaik tells TEDx that if you know the patterns that you are looking for, India’s apparent chaos is actually order.

  • The mythology of the West: kill the chaos-creating dragon, create order
  • The mythology of India: liberate yourself from boundaries

A beautiful western garden is ordered.  Weeds are weeds, trees are trees and flowers are in their rightful place.  But who says a weed is a weed?  It is the pattern of the gardener.  It is not the pattern of nature.  It is imposition of a western gardener’s view on the nature.  The imposition of boundaries.

A western meal has starter, main course, dessert.  They are clearly separated.  The chef and the restaurant impose their boundaries on the food.

In India, the aim is to liberate from forced boundaries.  An Indian road does not have fixed lanes – but there is an order arising in the apparent chaos.  An Indian meal does not have clear distinction between starter, main, dessert – but there is an order in the apparent chaos.

Here is Devdutt Pattanaik speaking at TEDx (video here on the blog):

When I teach with Maty Tchey, she teaches those who wish to communicate powerfully to “think complex, speak simple”. She challenges speakers to find metaphors that allow the audience to see new material as an extension of what they already know.

What existing and understood patterns can you show the audience to connect them to new material?

3 responses to “India is Not Chaotic: Look at its Patterns”

  1. This post reminds me of a documentary that I saw on India years and years ago. The one part of that documentary that has stuck with me was an interview with the then Mayor of Calcutta.

    At one point, he said words to the following effect: “If you are from the West and you would like to visit Calcutta for one week, I would prefer if you did not come. Because it will be confusing and chaotic for you and you will leave with a bad impression. However, if you are willing to spend two or more weeks in Calcutta, I would love for you to come. It will take you a week to get used to life here. But once that week has passed, you begin to see the beauty that does exist in our city and in our people.”

    I found his words incredibly profound at the time and I think of them from time to time when I encounter something new and, at first blush, unpleasant to me.



    1. I love the idea.

      I read a book the other day “The Prosperous Coach” – the authors suggested that you can’t transform a life in less than 2 hours… you should never take meetings with potential clients of less than 2 hours… because you just cannot show the impact that you can have in 20 minutes… in 30 minutes. If you mean to stand out, if you mean to make a real difference… it takes time.

      I am thinking about stopping doing any meetings of less than 1 hour… too little to make a real difference.

  2. Yes, Its a pattern, and that other way reflect the unorganized mindset especially for traffic issues e.g. In New Delhi, the capital of India, the frequency of traffic collisions is 40 times higher than the rate in London, the capital of the United Kingdom.Traffic collision-related deaths increased from 13 per hour in 2008 to 14 per hour in 2009. More than 40 per cent of these casualties are associated with motorcycles and trucks. The most accident-prone time on Indian roads is during the peak hour at afternoon and evening.Road accidents have earned India a dubious distinction. With over 130,000 deaths annually, the country has overtaken China and now has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide.

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