Embracing Hope in Uncertain Times
There is a saying, “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right now, then it is not yet the end.”
This mantra is proclaimed throughout the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as six British retirees grapple with getting older and lives that did not turn out as they had hoped. Each find themselves at a crossroads—accept their situation as is or travel to a distant land in search of new, more fulfilling lives.
Lured by a brochure’s glamorous vision of living in a luxurious Eastern resort-like hotel for the elderly, each travel to Jaipur, India, only to find that the hotel’s "photo shopped" pictures and enchanting prose was a portrait of a hotel "that will be but has not taken shape as quickly as hoped." They journeyed seeking a future that has not yet arrived.
The manager encourages the retirees not to be disappointed, but to wait, to give the hotel a chance to become the dream he advertised in the brochure. The fulfilling life they seek can become a reality in time. They just need to trust, make their home in this foreign land, and see what it can offer them.
Deciding not to leaving, they each take up residence in the dilapidated hotel. As they immerse themselves in the Indian culture, crowded streets, cities with outcastes, colorful marketplaces, spicy foods, and childhood street games, they venture beyond their current lifestyles, expectations, and limiting world views. (Re)discovering themselves, they are transformed. The meaningful lives they sought slowly emerge.
The movie ends on the note that if one does not risk anything, one gains nothing. If one trusts and takes chances not knowing where they will lead, all will be alright in the end. “Life is what you bring to it.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film about self-awareness, honest critical reflection and navigating a complex world . It explores embracing uncertainty, living with ambiguity, and trusting one’s self, others, strangers, and the “process” that gives rise to the future.
At its heart, it is a story of hope that challenges each of us to live courageously—to risk making changes without knowing the specific outcome. Trials and challenges bring unexpected gifts. No matter how difficult or dark the current situation is, there is reason to believe that the world can not only be different, but actually better. If one courageously engages with life and is willing to openly confront one’s shadow—fears, biases, disappointments, cultural values, world views, and political systems, for example—all will work out for the best. It is about choice and action, as well as having faith and not giving up.
The movie is also an interesting exploration of taking personal responsibility. While the individual characters consciously take ownership of their lives and act, they unexpectedly find that they cannot control exactly what their lives will be or how the desired changes will become reality. They need to be proactive, yet patient, and see life as a gift.
Are these not the very sentiments that we need to embrace so we can take responsibility to proactively grapple with the lingering effects of the global economic downturn and systematically address its social, business and political root causes?
Can these perspectives not only motivate us to not lose hope, but also to risk to courageously travel to foreign lands—to allow ourselves and lifestyles to be transformed—so we can effectively envision how to stem the tide of global warming?
As we approach the upcoming elections, maybe we each can spend some time contemplating what each of us will bring to making the future different. Maybe we each can consider risking to believe that everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not alright now, then it is not yet the end.