Steve Jobs and his India connection

Reema Sharma

The death of Steve jobs—the technology czar who revolutionised the entire music, mobile phones and computing industry— will take a lot of time to sink in.

There has been no official statement on the cause of his death, but Jobs has had a long battle with pancreatic cancer and other health issues.

Not only was he very well known in India, the tech czar also had a complicated India connection. It is believed that the quest to understand the karmic law brought Steve Jobs to India. While very little has been published detailing his trip, Jobs’s quotes give us an insight into what he felt about enlightenment and spirituality.

The tryst with India for this college dropout happened somewhere around the 1970s. Jobs floated through India in the mid 70s in search of spiritual guidance prior to founding Apple. It is believed that he suggested the name to his friend and co-founder Steve Wozniak after a visit to a commune in Oregon he referred to as an "apple orchard."

The 18 years old Jobs came to India with a hippie mindset along with a friend, Dan Kottke, after dropping out of Reed, a private humanities school in Portland, Oregon. A voracious philosophy student with a keen interest in religion, Jobs dropped out after just one semester owing to his middle-class background which created trouble fitting in to the affluent school.

In his early days he earned his living by returning Coke bottles (many say that his main intention was to save money for his trip to India) and sought a weekly free meal at a local Hare Krishna Temple.

Jobs was once quoted saying, “I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it.”

He soon embraced Buddhism after coming to India, shaved his head, wore loose-fitting Indian clothing and often experimented with psychedelic substances.

But the one guru he came to meet – Neem Kairolie Baba, a Hanuman devotee who had some American followers in the 1970s – died before Jobs and his friend Kottke made it to his ashram.

The quotes which he gave after going back from India narrate a somewhat different tale of his version of enlightenment. Jobs was quoted as saying, “We weren’t going to find a place where we could go for a month to be enlightened. It was one of the first times that I started to realise that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba put together.”

The saga of Apple and his tale from rags to riches is solid enough to tell the story that went behind to making this great success, a triumph from where there was no looking back. And there was no looking back at India too. When the entire IT industry—from IBM to HP was keen to invest in India’s Silicon Valley, Jobs didn’t show much interest to take a slice of the India market.

Beyond a broad interest in Buddhism, Jobs eventually seemed to have no great soft corner for India. He was possibly disappointed by the poverty and chaos he found here. He went back to America and he created the company he wanted. Perhaps he found his real enlightenment in the product that he was passionate about.

Man is mortal but names are immortal. Steve Jobs will always remain to inspire thousands of aspirants who want to make a life defying conventions and expectations.