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Dancing on the edge of chaos

Could love be madness in a sane world, wonders Rohit Trilokekar

Rohit Trilokekar | Published 09.10.22, 12:07 PM
How does the butterfly effect apply to love?

How does the butterfly effect apply to love?


A butterfly caught my eye once. It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, flitting nonchalantly through the breeze, just out of arm’s reach. I must have been six or seven years old. I carelessly ambled down the street and my eyes fixated on the object of my affection, not sparing a thought to a nasty shard of glass that had wedged itself firmly in my foot. There was blood. Nevertheless, I relentlessly pursued the object of my enchantment, until it flew out of reach. Only then did I feel the pain. I bear a scar from that day. It would not be amiss to say it was symbolic of a lifetime’s penchant for beautiful girls, each proving as elusive as that butterfly.

They say if a butterfly flaps its wings, it can change the weather in another country years later. Cause a tornado, even. It is a part of the chaos theory called the butterfly effect, associated with the work of mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.


Life is chaos we forever seek solace from

You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.

— Johann Gottlieb Fichte, The Vocation of Man

Barely a teenager, I fell in love. At first sight. Why brew coffee when love is instant? One look at her and a switch inside me had been irrevocably turned on. For the first time in my life I felt incomplete. In the years that followed, I continually sought to “fill that void”. How the void even emerged out of seemingly nowhere when I locked eyes with a girl I had never seen, is a question I have no answer to. Nor could I fathom, “Why her?”

What is love?

Baby don’t hurt me

Don’t hurt me

No more

— Haddaway

Life is chaos we forever seek solace from. Solace that might arrive moments into sitting on a bench by a placid lake. Or when we fall in love. Ironically, this many-splendored love brings a chaos all its own, apart from those joyful bursts of dopamine that lend one a surreal sanity amidst life’s madness.

Could love be madness in a sane world?

What did I want from that beautiful, crazy first love? Hugging her? Whispering sweet nothings into her ear? When I first chanced upon the object of my affection, the world as I knew it had ended.

Unlike the weather, love’s tornado hits instantly

Something new is created out of the storm love leaves behind

Something new is created out of the storm love leaves behind


Lila, a woman on an impromptu excursion to Lonavala, watches Brad Pitt emerge from a waterfall in the cool waters of a lake she is frolicking in at sunset. Her cousin accompanying her sees something else — a potbellied uncle in hideous Mickey Mouse trunks. Unknown to Lila, temporary insanity kicks in. Far more has changed besides the sudden charm this gentleman, almost as old as her father, has unwittingly been endowed with. For starters, she is Mandakini. Her starry-eyed friends at convent school would coo incessantly about love’s myriad hues, and she fervently wished she would experience what they felt someday. That day has arrived. After some not-so-gentle prodding from her cousin, she musters the courage to wade up to “Brad” and initiate small talk. Numbers are exchanged (and memorised fervently for lack of dryness and cell phones). Years later, when Mr. Pitt, now Lila’s husband, is in Bangkok celebrating his colleague’s birthday, Lila finds her own happy ending with her toy boy gym instructor. No pornography script, this. It is life.

Unlike the weather, love’s tornado hits instantly. Picking up the pieces the storm leaves in its wake, you create something new. Someone who harboured a lifelong dream of being a Wall Street investment banker finds himself living in a quaint cottage by the sea in Karnataka with his girlfriend, running a little shack on Gokarna beach where they serve tourists everything from scrumptious egg appams to chilled IPA beer. Not everything is within the bounds of speculation. The boy’s parents, who used every last penny of their life’s savings so their son could go to Harvard, have severed ties with him. A look can change a life. Sometimes, several.

I’d been granted a glimpse of heaven, then dumped on the sidewalk of Rue d’Assas

— Oscar, protagonist in Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon

We hate the impending drama and uncertainty relationships bring, but without them love would lose its flavour. If there were no lover’s spat, what would there exist worth fighting for? If you were not jealous of your husband’s bombshell (b*tch) secretary, you would not realise you still craved his touch.

We cannot control love’s sweet chaos

Unlike instant coffee, instant love is not sustainable

Unlike instant coffee, instant love is not sustainable


The dopamine rush instant love begets is not sustainable. One morning you inadvertently notice two toothbrushes by the wash basin. You take notice of them for the first time, despite seeing them every day. Oxytocin, “the cuddle hormone”, kicks in and you are inundated with warm, fuzzy feelings. Yet, you forever grapple with love’s chaos like you did with the claws of existential angst as a confused teenager. Back then you would lock your room door, blast grunge music and think you belonged. Until one day you belonged to a person.

The edge of chaos is a transition space between order and disorder that is hypothesised to exist within a wide variety of systems. This transition zone is a region of bounded instability that engenders a constant dynamic interplay between order and disorder

— Complexity Labs

Putting it simply and in context, there is a sweet spot between love’s order and disorder, and it is here that the magic happens.

Love’s butterfly dances on the edge of love’s chaos, creating mini-tornadoes long after the major one has wreaked its havoc. That strangely addictive chaos might very well cause mayhem if it spirals beyond bounds, into either extreme order or disorder. Long before “Bangkok”, Lila discovered traces of a woman’s perfume on her husband’s favourite Calvin Klein shirt. The scent in her relationship had long since faded, though.

We cannot control love’s sweet chaos. To do so would be to control life. Broken glasses in feet and curiously scented shirts notwithstanding, love is forever worth pursuing.

Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.

Last updated on 09.10.22, 12:07 PM

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