Chaos. The first thing I see on my way to work is chaos. It describes everything from the traffic jam, the cars honking pointlessly, auto-rickshaws driving on the wrong side of the road, and don’t even get me started with people cutting lines and pushing each other to get into the trains!
Every morning, India feels like a super-fast paced country I can’t seem to keep up with. Everyone is rushing and running as if their lives depended on it, and sometimes, I get scooped into the busyness of living here too. Often, by 10:00 AM, I’m already exhausted, feeling as if more than half my day has passed.
While speaking to our social media manager, a couple of days back, she said, “Life in India is so fast; we should talk about this on We The Expats.” I had already begun thinking about this topic, and writing, when we had this conversation. The thing is, I don’t think life in India is fast-paced. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty slow and laid-back; the chaotic nature of India makes everything feel so fast and on-the-go. If you observe, you’ll notice that people here actually enjoy taking their time doing everything.
I bumped into my neighbor’s housekeeper, one morning, and watched her enjoy her walk down the stairs in bliss. The car washers, in the morning, hum a happy tune while cycling from one block to another, searching for cars on their list. And like their very own version of Hakuna Matata, in India, they say, ho jaega, when translated means, it will be done. It also stands for, do not worry, I found out later on— I can’t even count the number of times people have said this to me.
I grew up in the islands, so don’t get me wrong, I am all for the slow-living, the laid back, and the ho-jaega attitude. Nevertheless, I understand that it can be frustrating when we want things to be done, and quickly too. We come from different cultures that vary like night and day, and when that clashes with the culture we currently live in, I don’t know about you, but I question my reasoning behind living here. Then my inner hyper-active-hulk comes out, followed by a couple of yelling with the few Hindi words I know and switching to English regardless of whether the person understands or not. So, what then? Is there anything we can do about it? As much as I’d like to say yes, I think the answer is no. There is nothing we can do about this, and we might as well as just stop trying. Instead, we should adopt, take the good parts about living slow!
When I talk about slow-living, I do not mean slacking or being late, that’s just being lazy. What I mean about a slow-paced-lifestyle is rushing only when needed, and saying no to charging around all day, every day. It’s about being more mindful and “taking a step back and start enjoying life being conscious of sensory profusion,” according to Wikipedia. It’s basically about finding balance in our everyday lives. Not the easiest thing to do when we have high-pressure jobs and deadlines to meet, but a necessity if we do.
And like their very own version of Hakuna Matata, in India, they say, ho jaega, when translated means, it will be done. It also stands for, do not worry, I found out later on— I can’t even count the number of times people have said this to me.
You see, a high-pressure job mixed with the chaotic nature of India, Delhi especially, and all the other negative aspects of being an expat, isolation, culture shock, etc. is the perfect concoction for an early burnout— trust me on this.
I feel the need to start the next section by saying, I am not an expert on slow-living. However, I do enjoy that kind of lifestyle, and try my best to slow down whenever I feel anxious or whenever I feel burnt-out. Here are a few things I have begun incorporating into my daily/monthly routines:
Take time drinking or eating. When I was living in Bangkok, I noticed that my co-workers would often eat while walking or working on their desks. Coffee will always be taken on-the-go; everyone was walking around with food or a drink, which I eventually adapted into my lifestyle too. This isn’t something I see in India! Here when people drink tea, they stand around the chai-wallah and chat, or sit in the coffee shop while drinking their coffee, even if they’re alone.
Get out of the city. The chaotic nature of India is mostly restricted to the bigger cities and the touristic areas. There is so much more to India than Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, or even Rajasthan! Any chance you get, pack an overnight bag and explore India. I recently heard of a French-British heritage town of Chandannagar, about 30 km of Calcutta, that could be a perfect retreat for those of us who need time away from the city.
Unplug. One of the hardest things for me to do is unplug. I used to sleep with my phone in my hand, and wake up with it flat on my face. While I still do not dare to turn off my phone, I have been getting into the habit of keeping it away before bedtime— it has done wonders for my sleep.
Think ho jaega. Though it requires a lot of patience, sometimes we just have to let some things be, and learn to accept that there are things way beyond our control. India loves to procrastinate, it almost feels like they enjoy the high of rushing, and there’s nothing we can do about it, it’s frustrating! However, at the end of the day, we can’t impose our lifestyle on India. There are things we can work around with, there are situations where we need to put our feet down, and time when we have to let it be!