Gen Y does the hippie hippie shake

Mar 13, 2011, 09:19 IST | Dhamini Ratnam

They don't smoke up, preach free love or wear peace signs around their necks. And they certainly don't roam around in bell- bots. Move over flower power. The children of the Internet are here and they're just as interested in freedom and flexibility as their predecessors in 1960. Urban India is spawning the new Hippies

They don't smoke up, preach free love or wear peace signs around their necks. And they certainly don't roam around in bell- bots. Move over flower power. The children of the Internet are here and they're just as interested in freedom and flexibility as their predecessors in 1960. Urban India is spawning the new Hippies

A year ago, Mumbai web designer Kaushal Karkhanis decided to move his office to Goa. There were practical reasons -- the rents were low, the travelling easier, the beer cheaper, and the ambience better. But for the 30 year-old entrepreneur, the decision was part of a larger "life experiment" that made him quit a well-paying job at software giant Microsoft six years ago. Karkhanis didn't want to invest in a home, start a family or buy the latest SUV like the rest of his peers. Instead, he had three goals: Make one life altering decision every year, travel to one new country every other year, and turn fit.


Pratishtha Durga, 33 Television promos writer and blogger
(Life in 2 suitcases).
Last weekend, she organised a garage sale
to rid herself of material clutter she realised she had accumulated
after moving into her new Andheri flat.Pic/Anuja Gupta


He started with paring his life down to essentials and giving up what he didn't need. Easier done than said, insists Karkhanis. "I was interested in leading multiple mini lives, not just one regular life. I wasn't trying to be anti-conformist or anti-capitalist. I was just being myself," he clarifies.

Like Karkhanis, a small but growing number of urban youth have begun to talk a similar language of individuality that defies normatives set by society, family or friends. The career-grafting job, the Jimmy Choo heels or five-star hotel stays aren't for them. And while they may not be raising their voice against a war or an unjust economic system like the Hippies of the 1960s and '70s, this tribe remains detached from material objects, seeks spiritual satisfaction over religious, and  is open to moulding its belief system by travelling around the world. And, they are children of the Internet.

Finding the commune, online
Aparna Shekar Roy, who began to write a travel blog to document her nine-month long backpacking trip across five South American countries in 2008, is relocating to London with her husband Adidev this week. The 30 year-old national brand manager for an international energy drink brand turned to Facebook to clear out her home.

Roy advertised free giveaways all of last month on her profile page. 'Ninja's free giveaway for the day' included everything from roller blades, dart boards and utensils to curtains and blankets. She found several takers.

"There was no point selling all that; it was easier to give it free to those who wanted it," Roy shrugs. "Selling it for a few thousand bucks, or worse, hoarding it in the house didn't make sense." Roy, who took a year's break from work to backpack through Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Argentina, describes her travelling style as simple and non-fussy. "I didn't carry a phone so I wasn't connected to anyone. My backpack was always under eight kilos," she says. She stayed with locals or at budget hostels. "I wanted to live like a local, and even ended up learning Portuguese, and Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form."

Since then, she has travelled through eight other countries -- a few on account of her job, and others by backpacking. And as she travels, she blogs about her experiences. Karkhanis too, turned to the Internet to find a community that fostered the lifestyle he wanted to lead. He put up his books on bookcrossing.com, a website of global book lovers, who leave their books in public spaces fir others to pick up; and gave away most of his clothes through a social initiative he read about online.

Paring down his life to essentials also made him flexible, so that when Karkhanis decided to head off to Columbia for a 40-day trip in 2008, he had no second thoughts about returning six months later. There was very little tying him down. It was also through the Internet that Karkhanis met people with whom he stayed while travelling.

Material detachment
"One has to identify what one really wants, and make that your goal. I stay rooted to my goals, not my location," says Karkhanis, who is inspired by a blog by Tim Ferriss, author of the bestseller The Four Hour Work Week. On his blog, Ferriss propounds a philosophy known as life hacking, in which people come up with simple workable solutions to problems, thus hacking into their own life and making it more livable. Ferriss calls them 'experiments in lifestyle design'. "This is real independence," says Karkhanis, whose move to Goa helped him achieve his goals of travelling and staying fit -- he was able to devote two hours a day to learn boxing. "I'm choosing what's important to me." For 33 year-old Pratishtha Durga, one way of achieving that independence was to get rid of the clutter that surrounded her life.

After moving into her new home in Andheri last year, Durga realised she was beginning to accumulate what she didn't need. Last weekend, Durga held a garage sale. "I gave away books, shoes (including a pair of Jimmy Choos), clothes, tea lamps, and more. I'm having another one this weekend," says Durga, a television promos writer. In her blog, Life in 2 suitcases, Durga advocates shedding clutter to turn your life around.

For her, de-cluttering is as much a spiritual exercise of detachment as it is a practical one. "Clutter can be emotional, material and physical. The more we rid ourselves of it, the more we open ourselves to bigger, better things that clutter makes us blind to. You let go of fears and prejudices on one hand, and an insecurity about the future, on the other." Travel, says Durga, abets this. Last year, she visited Rajasthan ("for the first time, and that too, without a plan"), Ladakh and Spain, and spent time learning the cuisine of each place. Although financially secure, she doesn't plan to buy a house. It will tie her down, she fears.

Alone, not lonely
Like Karkhanis and Roy, Durga too believes that the lighter you travel, the farther you go. But for Rajendar Menen, the 52 year-old author of Karma Sutra: Essays from the Margin, who admits to having been influenced by the Hippie movement as a teenager in the '70s, travel is essential to growing up. "It's only when you travel that you get direct empirical knowledge, which forces you to give up your inhibitions and prejudices. You discover yourself," says Menen.

"The more I travelled, the more I realised that once you know yourself, it doesn't matter if you are in a relationship with someone. You are in one with the core of your existence." For Durga, de-cluttering is also a process of pruning meaningless relationships and retaining those that matter.

Karkhanis admits that leading an itinerant lifestyle can make conventional relationships tough, "unless, of course, you are attracted to someone who is like you." Karkhanis is lucky -- his experiment is taking him to Milan in June "for a date" with someone he has met only once. And Roy's husband, a banker, loves to travel as much as she does; even if he doesn't get as much leave. "Any job can be location independent," says Karkhanis. "All you need is to choose to live like that."

Your guide to logging on to de-clutter
Give away books on www.bookcrossing.com

Give away electronics and other items on www.freecycle.org

Find a de-clutter mindmap at http://blog.iqmatrix.com/life-success-series/de-clutter-your-life-mind-map

Learn to lead a leaner lifestyle on http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/

Who were the Hippies?
It is no surprise that the Hippie movement emerged at a time when the youth population of America was the highest -- 70 million out of the 180 million people in the United States were teenagers and young adults.

Today, nearly half the Indian population is between the age of 25 and 35, making India one of the youngest countries in the world.

The Hippie movement came to the fore in the 1960s, and was characterised by various aspects including psychedelic rock, the intake of LSD or Acid (which was legal in the US till 1966), protests against the American war in Vietnam, the struggle for racial and gender equality and a back-to-nature movement.

Journalist and author Gay Talese believed the movement sought to upturn the sexual and moral straightjacketing of the 1950s.Hippies rejected existing social and political norms. They travelled without restrictions, lived in communes, spoke of peace and free love, and many sought spiritual guidance.

The year 1967 is often referred to as the Summer of Love. As many as 1,00,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco. John Phillips wrote a song to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in June, urging visitors to "wear some flowers in your hair" -- one of the reasons why Hippies came to be known as flower children.

The flower also became iconic during a protest march to the Pentagon, when actor George Harris put flowers in the barrels of the soldiers' guns. Such be-ins or spontaneous gatherings became a popular symbol of the Hippie movement, and inspired singers John Lennon and Yoko Ono's famous bed-ins for peace in 1969 to protest against the war in Vietnam.

The Woodstock festival held in Bethel, New York, in 1969 saw over 5,00,000 people congregate to hear musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez. Many famous novelists of the day, who had emerged from a similar counter cultural movement referred to as the Beat generation (or beatniks) of 1950 gained prominence in the 60s and 70s, including Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kasey and Neal Cassidy and poet/musician Bob Dylan.  The movement's detractors critiqued it for its sexual permissiveness and use of drugs.

How to pull off the Hippie look in 6 easy steps
The stuff that Hippies wore had a lot to do with the political statement they were making. The long hair, flower-shaped accessories, flowing dresses or bell bottom pants, and the unshaven look -- all of it sought to break away from '50s fashion that followed straight and narrow cuts in women's dresses, and a clean-shaven suited look for men.

The bell bottom pants or the maxi dress
Wear cotton pants or denims that flare at the bottom. You can even add a fringe, or stitch patchwork on it to get the Hippie look. Women can go for long maxi dresses or tunics.

The round sun glasses
The Gandhian frames were a big hit among the peace-loving Hippies. Another option is a pair of large bee-shaped sunglasses (think Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna).

The tie and dye top
Tie and Dye tops and tees were made popular by musicians John Sebastian, Janis Joplin, and Joe Cocker in the '60s. Tie and Dye shirts also have psychedelic patterns -- something that Hippies, on their Acid trip knew a lot about. The idea is to go as colourful as possible. Wear loose-fitting tops. Women can opt for long-sleeved peasant blouses.  

The head band and long hair
The whole idea is to keep it low maintenance and natural-looking. Part your hair in the centre. To keep it in place, tie a narrow head band -- made of cloth, string, metal or even a thin scarf -- over your hair. 

Birkenstocks sandals
Most of them preferred to go barefoot, but we wouldn't recommend that. The other favourite was birkenstocks. Since the catchphrase is comfort, pick up a pair of sandals to go with your bell bots or tunics.

The peace necklace
Accessories are a huge part of the Hippie look, but the most important of them is the peace sign necklace. You could also experiment with a woven wrist band, bracelets with flowers or simple colourful threads tied around your ankle and wrist.

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