There is a wonderful tradition that was described to us by Sandiya of Storytrails this morning as we walked through the backstreets of Chennai, India.

Every house we passed had a chalk-like drawing on the pavement in front.  I asked Sandiya “what are these drawings?” (my new shoes are visible in most of the pictures!)

She told me “Every morning the woman of the house draws a picture.  She can draw whatever she wants.  If the family is celebrating, it will be colourful and large.  If the family is mourning it will be small, or maybe even non-existant.  Each morning she expresses herself and the mood of the house.”

I thought “what a wonderful way for a neighbourhood to know each other.  You don’t have to say ‘how are you?’ it is written on the street as you pass each house”

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?