Drawing on the rich experience of his own life, bestselling author Paulo Coelho's 'Hippie', dedicated to Kabir, Rumi and Tagore, among others, will hit the bookstores in India on Thursday. Presented below is an exclusive extract from the book.
In September 1970, airplane tickets were outrageously expensive, which meant only the rich could travel. OK, that wasn't entirely true for an enormous number of young people whom these outdated media outlets could see only their outward appearance: they wore their hair long, dressed in bright-colored clothing never took a bath…
They were a danger to an entire generation of diligent young boys and girls trying to succeed in life, with their horrible example of lewdness and "free love" as their detractors liked to say with disdain. Well, this ever growing number of kids had a system for spreading news that no one, absolutely no one, ever managed to detect...
The 'Invisible Post' existed because people were always going to these concerts, swapping ideas about where they ought to meet next, how they could explore the world without jumping aboard one of those tourist buses where a guide described the sights while the younger people grew bored and the old people dozed. And so, that's to word of mouth, everyone knew where the next concert was to take place or where to find the nest great trail to be explored. No one had any financial restrictions because, in this community, everyone's favorite author wasn't Plato or Aristotle or comics from some artist who'd attained celebrity status, the big book, which almost no one who traveled to the Old Continent did so without, went by the name Europe on 5 Dollars a Day. With this book, everyone could find out where to stay, what to see, where to eat, where to meet and where to catch live music while hardly spending a thing.
Frommer's only error at the time was having limited his guide to Europe. Were there not perhaps other interesting places to see? Weren't there those who would rather go to India than to Paris? Frommer would address this failing a few years later, but until such time the "Invisible Post" took it upon itself to promote a South American itinerary ending at the once-"lost" city of Machu Picchu, with the warning not to mention anything to those who were outside of the hippie culture, lest the place be invaded by wild animals with cameras and extensive explanations (quickly forgotten) about how a band of Indians had created a city so wee concealed it could be discovered only from above - something they considered impossible, since men did not fly...
Returning to the trails: after Machu Pichu, the next hot spot was Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia. Then Lhasa, in Tibet, where it was difficult to enter because, according to the "Invisible Post" there was a war between monks and Chinese soldiers. Of course it was difficult to imagine such a war, but everyone took it seriously and wasn't about to risk an endless trip to later end up a prisoner to the monks or the soldiers . Last the era's great philosophers, who had just split up in April of that year, had a short time before proclaimed that the greatest wisdom on the planet was to be found in India. That was enough to send all the world's young people to the country in search of wisdom, knowledge, gurus, vows of poverty, enlightenment, and communion with My Sweet Lord.
'The Invisible Post', however, warned that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, famed guru to the Beatles, had tried to engage relations with Mia Farrow. The actress had always been unhappy in love through the years. She had traveled to India at the invitation of the Beatles, possibly in the hope of finding a cure for other traumas related to her sexuality, which seemed to hound her like bad karma.
But everything suggests that Farrow's bad karma had accompanied her, John Paul, George, and Ringo on their trip. According to Farrow, she was meditating in the great seer's cave when he grabbed her and tried to force her into sexual relations. By this point in the trip, Ringo had already returned to England because his wife hated Indian food and Paul had also decided to abandon the retreat, convinced that it wasn't doing anything for him.
Only George and John remained in the Maharishi's temple when Mia came looking for them, in tears, and told them what had happened. The two immediately packed their bags, and when the Enlightened One came to ask what was going on, Lennon gave him a bruising response: "You're the f***ing Enlightened One, are you not? You ought to be able to figure it out."
Now, in September 1970, women ruled the world - or, more precisely, young hippie women ruled the world. Wherever they went, the men did so knowing these weren't about to be seduced by the latest trends - the women knew much more about the subject than the men did. And so the men decided to accept once and for all that they needed these women; they constantly wore an expression of yearning, as though begging, "Please protect me, I'm all alone and I can't find anyone, I think the world's forgotten me and love has forsaken me forever." The women had their pick of men and never gave a thought to marriage, only to having a good time enjoying wild, intense sex. When it came to the important things, and even the most superficial and irrelevant, they had the last word. However, when the "Invisible Post" brought news of Mia Farrow's sexual assault and Lennon's reaction, these women immediately decided to change their itineraries.
A new hippie trail was created, from Amsterdam (Holland) to Kathmandu (Nepal), on a bus that charged a fare of approximately a hundred dollars and traveled through countries that must have been pretty interesting: Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and part of India (a great distance from the Maharishi's temple, it's worth noting). The trip lasted three weeks and an insane number of miles.
(Paulo Coelho is the bestselling author of several books, best known for 'The Alchemist'. Published with permission from Penguin Random House India)