Steve Jobs in India

1974 was the year of Ted Bundy’s first kill, and the Watergate Scandal. The last pretty colours of the Summer of Love had bled away, and Americans would never again trust their President. Meanwhile, a highly-strung college dropout named Steve is listening to folk singer Joan Baez performing Forever Young on the radio. Steve will tell you that he was a child of the sixties zeitgeist.  He listens to all the right music for it to seem true; but he was born a little too late to qualify as a hippy. Actually, he was part of a disillusioned generation who had come of age in a polyester world of disco balls and oil shortages. His peers listened with glee to Alice Cooper “drive a stake through the heart of the Love Generation”[1]. Steve fought the cynical riptide of nihilism. He tried to escape into the romantic nostalgia for a bygone era. Moreover, he tried to escape an emotional itch he can't scratch to this day. Inspired by the Beatles, he drags his friend Dan to India on a pilgrimage to the Kainchi ashram to find himself.

Steve suffered further frustration upon arriving in Delhi. His guru, Neem Karoli Baba, had dropped dead just before they landed. He decided to strip off his Western clothes and wear a loincloth. Steve told anyone who would listen that the loincloth was part of his journey to live as a local pauper. Actually, Steve had a penchant for dressing like a hobo even in America. His Western rags had been falling off his body since he arrived in the Promised Land. He needed new clothes anyway. More than three decades later, a biography would paint a romantic picture of a Western pilgrim humbled by the poverty of his Eastern brothers. “It challenged everything he thought he knew up to that moment,” claimed the authors[2]. Nevertheless, Steve was not so moved by their plight that he didn’t think twice about violently haggling with a woman much poorer than him over the price of buffalo milk. They were almost run out of town.

Always on the lookout for a free lunch, Steve and his friend join in on a Himalayan festival after smelling their cooking. The sight of this white boy dressed like an Indian pauper trying to be ‘down’ with the locals was so hilarious that the local holy man was rolling around on the ground with laughter. The elderly man took Steve to a well, dipped his head in the water and proceeded to shave his scalp. The old man was doing him a charity by protecting the unkempt foreigner from head-lice.

After the demise of Steve’s guru, he went looking for another. He had heard of a guru called Harikan. He was purportedly hundreds of years old and the journey to his ashram was “a ten-mile hike up a dry desert riverbed, over boulders and along a trail that was almost impossible to follow”. Anything that ridiculous must be a sign that Harikan was a true guru. Inevitably, the little man they found at the top of a cliff was just another character the locals roll out to fleece naive Westerners. Acutely aware of his stage presence, the guru had more colourful costume changes than a Cher concert. The boys were not impressed, despite the guru’s grandiloquent musings on “the essence of existence and so and so”. They left with after only two days, their illusions shattered.

A storm burst in the sky as the two tourists were sleeping in a dry creek bed. Every camper knows not to do this. Rather than make the smart move and search for high ground, they inexplicably buried themselves deeper into the creek bed and prayed that they wouldn’t drown in a flash flood.

When Steve returned to the States, he looked even more lost than before he left. He spent his spare time either at the Los Altos Zen Centre or in therapy sessions where he would try to shake off his demons by screaming in a darkened room. He lived for several weeks in a commune with his girlfriend, Chris-Ann. They sang forgotten folk songs with the last of the die-hard hippies who refused to believe that the world had gone square again. They also grew apples, which is all Steve would eat when he wasn’t fasting. He rarely talked about the thing that gnawing at his well-being. 

Steve was given up for adoption in 1955. There is something unfinished about growing up adopted. It’s like you are a question without an answer. Adoptees have a greater, more violent, struggle in finding themselves. A report from the University of Minnesota states that the experience of adoption doubles the odds of chronic behavioural and emotional problems. The worst afflicted are males adopted from within their own country.[3] Dan tries to explain Steve's struggle:

He felt some kind of 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 … I think it's clear that Steve always had a kind of chip on his shoulder. At some deep level, there was an insecurity that Steve had to go out and prove himself. I think being an orphan drove Steve in ways that most of us can never understand.[4]

Five years later, Steve would deliver to the world the first mass-marketed personal computer - the Apple.

[1] Furek, M. (2008) The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin. Indiana: IUniverse.
[2] Young, J.S. and Simon, W.L. (2006) iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
[3] Kingsbury, K. (2008, May 5) Adoptees More Likely To Be Troubled. Time Magazine.
[4] Young, J.S. and Simon, W.L. (2006) iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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