A return to the simple life: Slowing down, tuning out, living in the past
In a world of extremes, the return to retro can take extreme forms, but those exhausted by the FOMO and white noise of our times are finding it worth it.
For leather exporter Hemant Chabbra, 57, moving from Mumbai to Vikramgad in Palghar was an almost-overnight decision, in 2012. “I had a farm there and I realised that I was restless and just not happy when I came back after my weekend getaways,” he says. “I woke up one morning and told my wife I wanted to shift. She didn’t throw a fit or think I was crazy. So we decided to do it.”
The Chabbras now run a 5-acre organic farm where they grow rice, millets, mangoes, star fruit and vegetables and rent out a portion of their house as a B&B called The Hideout. “We’ve cut out all processed and packaged food,” Hemant says. “The idea was to surrender to nature and create a sustainable lifestyle.”
Of their three children, two live on the farm — 9-year-old Ayana and Aditya, 26, who left his life as a hairstylist in Mumbai to move here last year. “The biggest challenge,” says Hemant, “was taking the plunge, but it was also the most exciting part. Leaving everything behind and running a farm has been a journey of unlearning the city life.”
He and his wife now run a small business too, providing eco-friendly bags to fashion brands like FabIndia. “That means I have to head back into the city, but I have fixed timings for phone calls and make sure I spend most of my time enjoying the company of my family in the lap of nature.”
In Bangalore, 27-year-old Sahar Mansoor was so dejected by the garbage problem she began to notice around her after she returned from studying the global waste problem at the World Health Organisation in Geneva in 2015, that she decided to slash waste and has ended up making most of her consumer goods at home. “I felt like I need to change how I lived and was inspired by my grandmother, who could whip up everything from food to cosmetics in her kitchen,” Mansoor says. She now makes her own toothpaste, shampoo and kohl and launched a personal and homecare brand called Bare Necessities in 2016.
“It’s turned into a way of life for me,” she says. “I realised that I enjoyed slowing down, finding new alternatives for what I wore, used and ate.”
For Mumbai-based writer and voice-over artist Tanya Siqueira, 36, slowing down has meant ridding her life of clutter. “I was shopping unnecessarily and hoarding things that I would never use. It had four or five closets of home linen, 10 sleeping bags between my husband and me, and over 100 pair of shoes,” she recalls.
Since August this year, Siqueira has not bought a single new garment or accessory. “The idea is to change your lifestyle just enough to notice what you already have,” she says.
She has given away and recycled things she was not using, brought down the number of shoes to 20 pairs, and got rid of all but two handbags. “In the beginning I would wonder whether I would be bored wearing the same garments over and over, and whether people would point it out to me. But here’s what I have learnt—no one cares!” she laughs. “It’s how society and peer pressure has caused to live under pressure to fit under a particular kind of label, but once you slow it down, you realize what really matters.”