Happy birthday Steve Jobs: His spiritual quest in India

Happy birthday Steve Jobs: When he visited India out of spiritual quest

But Jobs' search for peace in India did not go as he expected

Many of you are familiar with the long queues outside the Apple stores during the launch of a new iPhone. But how much do you know the man who was one of the brains behind its birth?

Steve Jobs, a name no matter pronounced in whichever part of the world, evokes a sense of respect and awe. The company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak, Apple, has become a household name in today's age.

The craze for Apple products has touched India as well, notwithstanding the prices. But apart from the commercial aspect, did Steve Jobs the man had any connection with India?

In the pages of history, when modernisation was yet to bless the human race, India was known as the land of philosophy, enlightenment, riches and mysteries. India has always attracted the inhabitants of the western world, who have viewed it as a land of sadhus.

Steve Jobs too nurtured these thoughts, and so in the middle of 1974, he visited India along with Dan Kottke, who would later become the first employee of Apple.

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Kottke states in iCon, "He was determined to go to India. He felt some unresolved pain over being adopted. That was the same period that he hired a private investigator to try and track down his mother. He was obsessed with it for a while."

But Jobs' search for peace in India did not go as he expected.

The jeans and T-shirts made way for lungi, a traditional desi garment, and Jobs set out to embrace Indian culture. When the lungi-clad Jobs set foot on the streets, he received a shock. The land he visualised in his imagination disappeared like fog on a bright winter morning.  

He found India to be in a deplorable condition. Michael Moritz quotes Jobs in the latter's biography 'The Little Kingdom — The Private Story of Apple Computer', "The hot, uncomfortable summer made Jobs question many illusions he had nursed about India. He found India far poorer than he had imagined and was struck by the incongruity between the country's condition and its airs of holiness."

Later, during Jobs' search for one Neem Karoli Baba, he came across a man near Nainital, who shaved his head and promised to lead him to the Baba. But the Baba died long before Jobs reached his ashram.

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The trip became all the more difficult when Jobs and Kottke were struck with diarrhoea as the Indian summer continued to take a toll on the health. As Kottke describes the situation, "Out there in the dry creek bed, in the middle of India, completely disoriented, all our rhythms and beliefs shattered, where we were sure a flash flood would come through any moment, the two of us praying to any god that could here us; Dear God, if I ever get through this, ill be a good person, I promise."

They planned to go to Manali and Tibet later, but Kottke's traveller cheque got stolen, bringing down the curtains on a tiring journey.

After seven months in India, Jobs returned to the US. He had changed his appearance; his head was shaved, and he wore traditional Indian clothing. The trip made him a hardened man, someone with clarity and determination. He met Wozniak in 1975, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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