To recount the story so far (read Part – I of this essay here), Steve Jobs started his remarkable professional life by forming his new company Apple over a bowl of Dilli Fruit Chat in Old Delhi. The company was construed as an innovative technology giant for the advanced world (basically everything west of Iraq, east of North Korea, and south of Burma). For the rest, meaning the remaining 3/4th of humanity, Apple was going to be a political consulting firm. Its aim was to make proudly-poor countries like India strong enough to be able to buy the iProducts that Jobs was going to unleash in the next decade or two.
That was the beginning of Jobs’ association with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party seemed like the only
existing viable alternative to the monolithic dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family and its personal fiefdom, the Congress party. The Great Chanakya (or was it Voltaire?) had once said that the progress of a nation can be judged by the way it deals with the three realities of life – Death, Taxes, and Bowel Movement. In India, Life was still very cheap and Taxes way too high. Moreover, even after decades of rule, if more than three-quarters of the population still did not have any toilet access, and those who did still could not aim straight into the bowl, there was a clear case to be made for new leadership and fresh thinking. The Bharatiya Janata Party had leaders who were like a breath of fresh Hindi Heartland air – for starters, they were resolute nationalists and wore their patriotism on their sleeve (and also in the form of dhotis, kurtas or very, very loose shorts). Everyone in the Bharatiya Janata Party liked to make fiery speeches, and they all made them well. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s favourite colour was Saffron (so soothing!) and its favourite flower was the Lotus, naturally making the popular Lotus Root (or Kamal Kakdi in Hindi) their favourite vegetable. The Bharatiya Janata Party had everything going for them, including a name that was unpronounceable to only those who did not have an MA in Hindi or Sanskrit.
‘Why don’t you simply call yourself the BJP?’ Jobs had once guided Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had scoffed at the silly, though simple, suggestion. ‘You know, like the AIADMK?’
‘Hmpf,’ Atalji had declared, ‘if anything, we will call ourselves the Bhaa-Ja-Paa.’
‘Ok, well, suit yourself then. As long as it is simple. I love simplicity,’ was all Jobs had said.
Steve Jobs’s first successful product was designed keeping in mind India’s natural affinity to Sound and Fury. After all, nothing draws more attention in this country than something loud and blaring. So, to drown out the Congress completely, the Bhaa-Ja-Paa needed a human Boom Box – something that only spoke at levels 120 Decibels and higher. It was not important what sound came out of it, as long as it sounded like Heavy Metal and made you want to turn into a rebel without a cause. Thus was born the iPod, more popularly known in India as LK Advani. You could store a million sounds in it. The casing was strong and unbreakable, causing many to visualize a Loh Purush in its design language. But, perhaps, the most ingenious element about LK Advani was the Wheel – a round contraption that allowed control to be swung any which way the wind blew. The Hindi word for Wheel was the Rath and the iPod could yatra far and wide on it, winning hearts and minds, or causing mayhem and destruction, whatever was the political flavor of the day.
Calamity struck in 1992 when the iPod and its Wheel led to the annihilation of Babri Masjid, causing deep consternation in Steve Jobs mind. It was time to cut LK Advani down in size – and Jobs continued to do that relentlessly as he reduced the size of the iPod in avatar after avatar – from the Loh Purush iPod to the iPod Mini, iPod Micro, iPod Nano, and so on.
With the iPod experiment proving to be such a colossal disaster, Jobs realized that for the Bhaa-Ja-Paa to prosper, it needed to be calmer, inclusive, conversational. It needed to be seen as non-confrontational and reflective. It needed to be everything to everybody. Something that everyone would want to call their own. Like a mini-computer that you could talk into, or read poetic prose or witty anecdotes from. High in conservative intellect, yet progressive, dependable. Childlike, yet iconic. Like the iAtal Behari Vajpayee, later shortened to simply the iPhone.
Just like last time, Jobs had another massive hit on his hands. The iPhone ruled the hearts and minds of the country for a solid five years. It survived deep underground nuclear tests just as well it did falls from lofty heights such as the mountains of Kargil. Everyone was happy – it made them feel all glittery. ‘iNdia Shining’ was a slogan that best captured the mood of the population at the time.
However, all good things eventually come to an end. Over time, the iPhone started giving trouble. It would frequently be caught napping in public. Sometimes its speed in responding to your question or command would be so slow that you would subconsciously check if it still had a pulse. Clearly, iAtal Behari Vajpayee was approaching the end of its innovation life-cycle and no iOS update was going to be able to fix that.
Jobs was slow to recognize the massive gap in his product line as the iAtal failed. India paid a huge price for Jobs’ shortsightedness. Bhaa-Ja-Paa was swept aside by the nation by a mere push of a button and an inkspot on their forefinger.
Many worried about the future of the Bhaa-Ja-Paa, including its chief political strategist. But just as we were fast losing hope, mortified that the Italian Queen and her Dimpled Prince were going to run the country until the evening of your grandchild’s Ladies Sangeet, Jobs rolled out the latest proverbial rabbit out of his remarkably brimming digital fedora. He knew that the country was again craving for dependability and solid performance, but not of the monotone variety of the 1990s and the 2000s. The iPhone needed to come back, but it needed to project something brash. Something colorful. Something glitzy. Something that encapsulated the predictable-precision of perfection, but with a lot more pizazz. So Jobs readied the iPhone’s new avatar – the Narendra iModi, also known as the iPhone 5C. The heart of the new device was the same as the tried and tested chip of the old block, but this one came in bright colours – like neon saffron and neon green. And with exciting covers too, one could change them as often as one wanted – much like different types of headgear. The only thing that wasn’t compatible with the iPhone 5C was the Muslim Skull Cap.
Even though the new iModi is expected to go far, converting millions into new fans in the next few months, there remain skeptics who worry about its high price – which, they say, may eventually prove to be catastrophic for our secular democracy in the long run. Still, interest on Social Media remains especially strong partly owing to the new product’s brand new iOS – a less complicated, almost friendly user interface than before, with fresher styling, like its starched half-sleeved kurtas.
The Bhaa-Ja-Paa has staked its entire future on its succeeds.
Sadly, though, the new iPhone 5C is the last of Jobs’ contributions to Bhaa-Ja-Paa, or India, really, leaving many of us deeply disturbed and anguished. You see, we are worried because if this latest experiment fails, there is no more Steve Jobs to save our nation.