“Imagine there’s no country,
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion too.”
These were mere four lines for everybody during one of the class twelve English lectures, excluding me. I came across these lines while reading the short story in our English textbook, “My Family and Globalisers”. The whole class moved on to the next lines while my mind stayed there and for the first time, I felt like listening to John Lennon. There was something extraordinarily intriguing in these lines which got me seriously hooked onto this song. As soon as I returned home, I created a real mess as I frantically started searching all my CD collections to get hold of the Beatles discography. My cousin had long back gifted it to me but, I seriously never felt like listening to it. Alas! I deduced after going through the song list that it was a John Lennon single after there was a split in the Beatles.
For the next few days, it was the sound of “IMAGINE!” that echoed throughout the day in my house and in my mind too. Songs written for a cause or with a story behind the lyrics always fascinates me and “Imagine” was not an exception. The image of Utopia which embodies the lines simply intensified my curiosity and google.com indeed comes handy at such times. The search results were countless but one thing was for sure…. Lennon and his ideals had made a permanent impression on my mind, or at least I thought so. The more I read about him, his songs, the causes he fought for, the demonstrations he conducted, which were nowhere even remotely close to violence made me admire him more. More than Lennon, I fell in love with the America of the 70s and truly wished that I would belong to that generation and join the mass protests that surrounded the Vietnam War. “Imagine !” was the key that opened the doors to the world that out and out enthralled me. I became more and more passionate with every passing day to know more about the political scenario then and the protests that took place.
Going through the music videos of politically inclined songs like 'Imagine', 'Power to the People', 'Gimme Some Truth', 'Give Peace A Chance' on youtube, I noticed that it was the youth and the psychedelic strata of the counterculture, popularly known as the Hippies who played an active role in the protests. Somehow, I loved the way the Hippies didn’t care about a thing in the world and lived the way they liked. It’s often said that LOVE IS BLIND and it was proved right when I just couldn’t see anything negative about them and their lifestyle and was so very thrilled about their way of living that I even asked few of my friends whether they would love to live their life , the hippie way and join me in being a hippie..some years from now. My love for the America of the 70s redefined craziness as I decorated the walls of my room with hippie slogans like “Make love, not war”, “Free Love” and Lennon’s posters and his lyrics all over. I downloaded every possible documentary that talked about that era and I was more politically aware about America than I was about my own nation. Wearing clothes as colorful as possible, painting the nails with random colours and talking about the hippies and trying to make people aware about movements like flower power, Bagism, Woodstock movement, Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, Vietnam War, Nixon’s hatred towards Lennon. I noticed my liking in music too had undergone a drastic change. I started listening to psychedelic music and songs like Revolution, We didn’t start the fire, Come together etc.
Gradually the interest drifted from the political fiascos to the Hippie lifestyle which was widely dominated by the usage of drugs like Marijuana, LSD – Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and other hallucinogens. My addiction to knowing more about them grew to such an extent that my Mom was convinced that one fine morning, I would simply pack my bags and leave home to become a hippie myself. I even found out the positive effects of LSD and started vouching for it by saying that LSD enhances creativity, helps in curing Migraine and even elevates you to a different spiritual level. I found myself aloof from my real being as I had created a psychedelic world of my own. Whether it was their colorful attires that appealed me or the causes that they fought for or their definition of individual freedom, I simply have no slightest idea about it. But, certainly the Hippies and Lennon’s music was influencing me more than I thought it would.
But, one’s roots are always too firm to be uprooted. Similarly, the culture that has been imbibed in me from my very childhood is the one that you would often see in a typical Bengali family with parents who get worried over slightest issues, a mother who points out the flaws explicitly infront of the outsiders, a father who always overlooks the faults and there’s an immense interest towards intellectual movies, books and every other thing inculcated from the very childhood.
With such an upbringing, when I started my first year in St.Andrews, I loved the newness of everything….from my crazy bunch of classmates to the highly insane presentations but, what came to me as a culture shock was the sight of few of my classmates smoking and even indulging in drinks during breaks. It was again shocking to see that their parties were mostly the night outs with pub as a compulsory part of the get-togethers. This was highly unacceptable to me and contradicted with my values. I would rather throw a huge bong lunch at my place for all my friends than spend time with them at a night club. I would rather visit Crosswords during the free lectures than drinking beer or smoking ‘ciggies’ as they call it. When I say all these, it’s certainly not about they are incorrect or I am correct. It’s just that several such incidents made me realize how different I am in my values that I couldn’t try join them for once and I was imagining of taking drugs like the hippies. This cultural shock suddenly made me realize that it was nothing but a temporary obsession that I had of turning into a hippie for that is just not the REAL ME. The real me is nowhere close to even enquire about drugs anywhere and to lead a bohemian lifestyle. Though, the causes and their protests are still something which I honestly support and my admiration for John Lennon and his ideals is again something unchangeable but, indeed I cannot identify myself with the Hippies for my upbringing is simply different in every sense to the hippie culture. The environment I have been brought up in, my peer group, my values do not in any way match to that of the counterculture. With a few more similar culture shocks, I simply countered the counterculture of the sixties from my system.
But, the movies like “US vs JOHN LENNON”, “THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT”, ”HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA”, “IMAGINE” and the documentary “LSD – THE BEYOND WITHIN!” still stirs me up from within and I tend to dream about that colorful and psychedelic era and try to imagine what would have been…if I would be a part of those campaigns and then I say to myself….
“I WOULD BE A BIG LOSER AND A HOPELESS FAILURE AMONG THEM FOR I AM DIFFERENT.”
Nevertheless, my ephemeral obsession with the peace movements of the 60s and the early 70s definitely brought diversity in my music liking and added Jim Morrison, Billy Joel, The BEATLES AND MOST IMPORTANTLY JOHN LENNON to my list of all time favorites. The cultural conflict I went through in some way or the other made me broadminded though I still cannot think of defining freedom in their way in my own life. The temporary madness even made me somewhat informative about the Vietnam War and the events that took place during that period. It even gave me an insight into the world of the Beatles, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono; their peace movements like Bagism, Bed Peace, Hair Peace and too many more. And, if somebody asks me today “would you want a country run by hippies?” I would proudly say
“I would love my country to be run by politicians who support the hippie causes and refrain themselves from discriminations, wars and violence of any form!”
To conclude with, all I can think is Lennon’s words which make complete sense even in today’s progressive world…..
“IF SOMEONE THINKS THAT LOVE AND PEACE IS A CLICHÉ THAT MUST HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND IN THE SIXTIES, THAT’S HIS PROBLEM. LOVE AND PEACE ARE ETERNAL.”