Sustainable Lifestyle Coach Deepa Declutters Our Thoughts On Minimalism
- IWB Post
- April 10, 2018
A bold and confident voice greeted me. Little did I know that this was the voice that would break my long-held ideologies in the next one hour.
Some time ago if you asked me what minimalism was, I would tell you, ‘owning very few things.’ Chatting with Deepa, who gave up her surname years ago because it usually comes with a set of attached prejudices, makes me understand, ‘It’s not about the number, it’s about your requirement.’ She tells me, “We have these definitions of sustainability, but there is no definition. We are billions of people, how can one worldview fit billions of people. It is impossible; Everybody has different needs.”
In today’s day and age, when we strive to own more, Deepa lives a minimalistic life and makes a living by mentoring people to understand the “joy in giving more and wanting less.” She discusses with me her ideas about ‘living a slow life,’ ‘creating experiences’ and ‘her beliefs,’ while I can’t stop smiling as she floors me with her lifestyle. As I find myself being in an emotional mess all the time, Deepa talks about enjoying her emotions and embracing them completely. Excerpts:
You often speak about ‘relationship over ideology,’ how did that idea find a path in your life?
Earlier when I moved to a greener side, and I became eco-friendly, new labels came into my life. It ruined my relationship with everybody and also with myself. I became so dogmatic because I was looking at life through only one filter, the vegan filter or the eco green filter. When you look at people through filters, you will never be able to evaluate correctly. There was never a balance. So, I either felt too frustrated or too far behind in the rat race. Suddenly it struck me that even the labels are the rat race. Now I don’t even bother. I don’t look at people through labels or judge them. My relationships have drastically improved since I stopped doing this.
You do not use your surname anymore, do you also see that as a label?
It’s on my official documents because, in India, it is a lot of paperwork to get rid of the surname. Otherwise, where it is not needed, I don’t use it. I took it off about ten years back or so. The reason why I let it go was that a lot of things about caste and class used to bother me. I realized I had this conditioning that would run through my head about the person. Now I don’t concentrate on people’s last name; it’s helped me deal with the caste and class biases a little bit. These are things I only do for myself; I am not interested in how it affects others. If it does, great, but personally, I am only trying to upgrade my worldview.
How did you decide to go from being an instructor in an airline to a sustainable coach?
I did not make a leap. There was a recession, and I got fired from Kingfisher in 2008. The first people who got fired were the non ass-lickers. I was one of those people. Then obviously other people got fired. But I got fired at a good time, and my salary had been paid. I had paid my Bombay rent for two months, so it made no sense to move back to Delhi. This was the first time I had a lot of time in my life, so I had lazy showers and big breakfasts. I walked around Colaba. I went to see all the plays I wanted to see. I read all the books I was buying on sale for my big library, and I realized this is how I want to live, a slow life. Then I never went back to a job. It’s been almost eight years since I haven’t had a job. I only do projects that I like.
One item you currently own that you would never put in the declutter pile?
Actually, there are so many. My rucksack. It’s my necessity. But among the things that I don’t need but fancy is this pair of earrings that my friend made about five years back. She only made a single pair. I don’t think I will give it up for now.
You mentioned you were reading a lot during those two months. Is there a book that has truly influenced your life?
‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. That’s my Bible.
What do you think about the digital clutter we have in our lives today?
Digital clutter consists of endless pictures on our phones because of the Selfie revolution. I don’t personally own a smartphone. Whom are we hoarding for is the question? If people say we want to leave a legacy for our children, I say, the legacy should be a cleaner healthier world. Not some laptop full of pictures while you were busy trashing the planet.
Not owning a smartphone must be difficult?
No. It’s the easiest thing. You can’t have a slow life if you have a smartphone. It’s impossible. I don’t use a smartphone. I just have a laptop and when I close it, my day of work is over. I went abroad last year. I backpacked from India to Southeast Asia. I had a smart phone for the four months because I wanted maps and to skype my mother. Even then I had borrowed it and returned it.
Do you avoid Social Media as well?
I have a Facebook profile, and I run Facebook groups on sustainability Dariya Dil Dukaan, Four months buy nothing challenge, Zero Waste Lifestyle. I see Social Media as a tool. I’ve been able to influence so many people. I am running one of the Biggest Indian forums on gift economy. I use social media for my benefit and not towards the degradation of my life.
So, could you describe your minimalistic lifestyle through the things that are currently in your handbag?
I don’t have a handbag. When I travel, I have a rucksack that is 40 liters, and I have a daypack which is 20 liters. The daypack has a diary, a book to read, a wallet, my phone, a water bottle, a tiffin box, a spoon, a knife, a straw, a toothpick just to make sure I don’t take any disposables. Fruit, so I don’t buy anything that’s not wanted. An umbrella and a thin jacket.
Don’t you think these are too many things for a minimalist?
I don’t think minimalistic is a number game at all. My requirements to live a life will be very different from yours. I’ve been traveling for two and a half months with four shirts, and I think somebody else may want to travel with 8 shirts and that doesn’t make that person a bad person at all, you will have to find out what is your minimalist bar. There is nothing too much; for each of us, it will be different.
One habit you eradicated from your life when you became a minimalist?
I used to be a big toilet paper addict. Now it’s like hardly ever. So, I think that is one habit. It took a while, but it has gone.
Living a sustainable life when you are single compared to a family is easier, what are your thoughts on this?
I think children emulate what you teach them and how you live. It is a thought legacy that you pass on. If you truly live it and you believe in it, and you pass on the right sentiments, it will be taken care of. If the parents don’t lie, children don’t lie. Unless you don’t have a relationship where they don’t understand your philosophy. I would say it’s a relationship flaw when children don’t take over the value ethics of the parents. I have just lived with a family in Karnataka. They have two kids, and their whole lifestyle is minimalistic.
Having a minimalistic lifestyle is difficult in an era of ownership, what keeps you inspired to walk on this path?
I want my life to be full of experiences and not things. I don’t want to live a life of things because people are not things. I want to have experiences. So, if you want to make room for experiences, then, all the stupid things in your life have to go. If you have one hand, only one pen is enough. You don’t need 50 pens or 50 diaries.
Tell us the story of any one client whose life has taken an 180-degree turn after adapting to a sustainable lifestyle.
I make slow travel trips. People who don’t have time for six months mentorship, they hire me for a month, and we travel. This guy from Bombay, very well off, said, ‘I want to make a trip that I will never be able to do alone in my life.’ So, we walked through Nepal for 30 days with just a bag and just 3 shirts, and we spend just thirty thousand rupees for two people. This changed his life. He understood what being happy really is. Even with just three shirts, you can be really happy because it depends on what you are doing with your life.
A sustainable lifestyle is a right balance of what you need not what you desire or what you want. There is a big difference between these three. Is your lifestyle coming at a cost to the planet?
To contact Deepa, drop a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published on November 15, 2017.