BY: TJ MOREY
Present day Goa—dancing away into the haze of a drug-induced delirium, you will find a stereotypical hippie clamouring to keep sense of reality, or to whatever he can perceive of it. Mind you, this doesn’t come for free; the entry costs $4-$40 and a dab of acid costs another ten. For a land of the free where Hippies could truly embrace the movement and let it nurture and grow, Goa has matured into a much different world where a pure spirit is lured and bent and broken into a mutated beast of today’s existentialism. To understand this transition of the Hippie culture, one needs to get to the underbelly of the movement in its motherland, Goa, half a century ago. And from what can be seen is far from a pretty sight.
Circa 1947, India won independence from the shackles of the British rule, albeit Goa was still administered by the Portuguese. A beachfront state riddled with breathtaking hills that cradle the sea, it was obvious why the Portuguese were adamant to stay. Goa had been a tourist attraction since the 13th century, when the Mughal Sultanate used Goa as a summer getaway. This was followed by the British making a beeline for the beaches in the 18th century while still ruling the rest of colonized India. Rest assured, Goa was a truly lucrative place to be. The Indian army finally managed to barge into Goa in 1961 and drive the Portuguese away to reclaim Goa. That’s when the Hippie culture started to blossom, and thanks to the Indian religious ideas and cultural beliefs that were gaining momentum among the Hippie movement, the best solution for blossoming hippies was to make the holy pilgrimage to India.
The first batch of hippies, who marked the Hippie Trail, were said to have come to Goa all the way from Greece, after hearing stories of the Goan sand and sea. With the perfect weather, jolly warm locals, and an overdose of nature at its peak, what followed was an invasion of Hippies from all over the world, gathering and basking in the cultural hotpot that was currently booming.
While you had the typical American hippies trying to make their way to Goa, there was a major influx from the U.K., Italy and France. While the Hippies preferred to live a humble life of solitude and sheer merriment, they managed to run out of money while trying to fuel their regular drug habit. The Charas and Ganja that was at an astonishingly cheap price in India was enjoyed, but the coveted drop of Acid, Mescaline, or other drugs were particularly difficult to procure. Soon, travelling Hippies who were to reach Goa were informed to get batches of drugs for their beloved brethren, and they willfully agreed. There was no apparent harm in holistic peddling.
Unfortunately, this came at a hefty price to pay. These Hippie travellers, upon reaching Goa, realized the dearth of drugs and were hit by waves of greed. Drugs were in perpetual demand, and these peddlers were ready to make the pilgrimage to and fro to spread some chemical happiness. This gave birth to favouritism among the small colonies of ethnically diverse Hippies that were forming at the time. The Italians who took over the famed Anjuna beach started running the show while giving priority to fellow Italians when it came to renting a place or running a shack.
Contrary to the Hippie belief, the new set of people making their way to Goa were more captivated by the trance-dance experience and the drug flow than the humble hearty living of a true Hippie. While the Italians were busy capturing one bit, the Israelis followed suit and went on to capture the northern parts of Goa. An escape from the hardened compulsory military regime to a carefree happy life was much too appealing to resist. The Hippie ideology soon started to dissolve and the definition of a hippie soon became a haze. The new age Hippies of the ’80s and ’90s were described as wide-eyed white people prancing around naked on the beach in the wee hours of the morning while mumbling some intangible gibberish. They were far too lost to return to reality.
While colonies were being formed, new blood also brought forth a certain sense of punkish rebellion mixed with the Hippie bit. This new generation could flip a switch and transform from a happy Hippie to a raging rebel. What followed was territorial gang wars, homicides, petty crimes among others. Of course, this wasn’t the case with every Hippie who stepped in, but it did bring about a grim atmosphere amidst the usual cheer. By this time, the hippies who first arrived to seek solitude either found themselves with this new crowd or were beaten down by the tourist-oriented nature of Goa. They had no choice but to return back to their homelands with memories and a broken dream.
This caught the eye of the Goan Tourism board that had turned a blind eye to the Hippie theatrics, but were concerned about the safety of the locals and the immigrants alike. They brought down the hammer, hard. In the 90’s, when Hippies had taken over north Goa and raves were held right from forts to exotic lagoons to practically every other place, the busts started. The ones who could afford to pay off the cops stayed back while the others fled. Organisers were jailed or made to pay heavily. The venues closed and the hippie ‘clowns’ were mopped up.
Goa – today: the busts left a disastrous aftermath to say the least. All that remains are the stories of these hippies who once inhabited the Goan shores. As of today, newer generations arrive lured by the echo of memories, and the dream of attempting to emulate what was once a thriving global movement. The problem is that without the founding principles and the influx of drug-based entrepreneurship, the movement has disintegrated into being little more than kids on drugs and dancing to monotonous thumping music.
The simple idea of freedom that shaped the movement has turned on itself to a current state based on a free market. Yes, you will meet guys with dreadlocks who will be jolly to talk to, but that’s where the apology ends. The spark’s missing.
But yes, there do exists hippies. No, not the drug-loving kinds, but the ones who still gather and protest on the streets, who still keep the fight of humanity alive. Change is their drug. Those are hippies in the true sense of the word. But the hippie born in Goa is long way from home.