Bob Dylan once said, “I accept chaos, I’m not sure if chaos accepts me”
Last year I moved from my small hometown in Patna to the capital for higher studies at the University. I had always looked forward to a life away from home in a city which I could call mine. The day I landed in Delhi, I was welcomed with a strong sense of nostalgia. I have never lived here but it felt that the city had embraced me even before. It was a strange yearning – a longing for a city that had died a thousand deaths in history. A city that had welcomed so many, welcomed me too with open arms. The bustling metropolis full of life immediately announced that it doubles as my home.
It happened quickly – moving to a 2 BHK somewhere near central Delhi, getting admitted into one of the most prestigious universities in India, walking through the small galis of Delhi, and the monumental realization of life not being the same anymore. When I first entered my room, I remember noticing the huge window in front of me, brimming with sunlight that hit my face. I instantly knew where I would keep my wooden desk, where my bed would be placed, and where I would be hosting my small tea parties and poetry sessions. It was a luxury to have a room all by myself in Delhi. I never took it for granted and eventually it became my writer’s den. A den where all the brainstorming happened, a place where revolutions were planned, a place where self-reflection happened, and a place that hugged me back on my gloomy days.
Not going to lie, the first few months were a real pain. I was not used to the screeching noises of horns blaring all day and night and insults and slurs casually flung in the air. As much as I liked the city, it was becoming difficult for me to function in such an overwrought and frantic atmosphere. It seemed that the city never rested.
There is a revolution, change, and a peculiar kind of stubbornness in life here. In the daytime, humans took over the streets and at night, the beasts had it all by themselves. So in short, from dusk to dawn, there was not a minute of solace. My days were full of noise and clutter. Waking up to the noise of traffic and hitting the bed while the dogs sang their chorus. My building was located at a T point – a place where life thrives but at the cost of peace. College hours were the only time when I got some peace. Then one day I had an idea. I leave for college in the morning by 8. And since it was my freshman year, classes got over by 2. I decided that I will dedicate these few months to understand how life works in this city. Why this chaos only bothers me and not anyone else? Why does time fly so quickly here? So after the classes got over, I used my metro card and traveled around the city. I made a decision – Every day, I will try to visit a place which I have no idea about. No famous touristy spots, no crowded markets, no fancy cafes, and no expensive restaurants. Only a book, Google maps on my phone, something fluid, and a packet of Parle G biscuits. That’s it. If I get lost, I will find my way.
The first place I remember strolling around was Shadipur. It is a lovely small locality near mine. Just two metro stations away. I got down, walked a bit, and stumbled across this lovely bookstore which had a sibling theatre studio. The old rusty yellow door of the bookstore read ‘8 hours of work, 8 hours rest, 8 hours books and coffee’. It was called ‘Mayday bookstore’. The smell of the books hit me the moment I opened the door and I was transported to the early days of the USSR – yellow old walls adorned with posters screaming revolution, even the ceiling was not spared. The store was divided into three small parts, the right one for old second-hand books, the left one with new arrivals, and a counter for billing. The third one was an office area for the publication. It also had a small kitchen counter where I saw a man brewing coffee. I strolled around the second-hand book section for some time and selected one for myself on the third world countries. I, then, checked the timings of the play being performed and walked out of the store.
It was almost like I could feel everything at once – the coffee brewing on the first floor, the sun setting down slowly, the temple bells from a nearby mandir, kids laughing as if there is no tomorrow, smell of the cigarettes and the aroma of butter chicken being cooked at a small eatery just beside the bookstore in parallel with the honking of the horn and barking dogs. In the eyes of a common man this place wouldn’t stand out but I knew, this was one of the many pieces of art disguised as a small invisible nook in the city. This was my first ever experience of embracing the chaos.
What is chaos? I often ask myself.
Google defines it as ‘complete disorder and confusion’. Depends on the context of where it is being used, the definition seems open-ended to me. Aren’t the people around us living their life in confusion? Confusion is an understatement for it. Mayhem, I would say is more apt. Every person we cross our path with hides a tornado within themselves. They are, we are living with chaos inside us. The chaos of emotions, of past, of future, and that of longing. It is said that there is something known as inner peace. A moment when you are content with everything you have, content with your life and you don’t have any complaints. I don’t agree with this. This is momentary, I feel. Just for some time, a particular moment in time might have the ability to conceal our inner storm but one can never get rid of the chaos inside them. It stays inside you. Deep down inside your heart and travels to the grave with you. Just because you cannot get rid of your inner chaos, doesn’t mean that you cannot embrace the one around you. It takes patience, acceptance, and self-realization.
Even today I take a book and wander around the city. Though I have reduced it to just twice a week rather than every day, the experience remains the same. I leave a part of me at some places where I go to find myself. To find what I left behind. To just sit at a pavement or a footpath, watch people drowned in their lives, and see how time flies in front of my eyes. To let consumed by the surrounding chaos. The traffic, the laughter, the cries, and the love. Now that I have embraced the mayhem around me, I am also at peace with the one inside me.
Bob Dylan said, “I accept chaos but I’m not sure if chaos accepts me”.
Of late, I have been thinking what if the chaos outside is just a metaphor for the one inside?
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