When Jobs rang a Bell!

“Didn’t you do any market research before you invented the telephone to find out what people really want?” Steve Jobs asked Alexander Graham Bell as the latter welcomed him at the pearly gates and invited him for a meal. Jobs decided to use this as an opportunity to update the pioneer on what has become of the lovely device that is now used to do everything else but to pick it up and talk.

YOLO! Job’s i-phone bleeped in the middle of their enthusiasm, and there was an Instagram picture of a friend skydiving in South Africa. Luckily, his parachute didn’t land in the middle of Kruger National Park or else he would have actually been present at the conversation! A couple of moments later, there was a tweet from another buddy drinking champagne atop the Eiffel Tower with the same four letters, YOLO. Then there were others river rafting in the Yosemite, camping in Antarctica, buggy riding in the Sahara and clubbing in Ibiza — all YOLO.

Embarrassed by the fear of sounding uncool, Bell hesitatingly asked what ‘YOLO’ meant. Jobs flashed a picture of a couple in the 80s, fully tattooed and body pierced — You Only Live Once. “With my device, social media had made its entry into every cranny of our existence. You can live your entire life at the tips of your fingers,” Jobs was overheard telling Bell in their little tête-à-tête as they sipped on some vodka with a Haldiram’s mixture that was available in heaven courtesy the death of a recent Sindhi.


Bell grazed his fingers through his silver beard in disappointment. “Everyone’s trying to outdo the other. Whenever I look down on these IDIOTS — Impulsive Digital Isolationists with Obsessive Tendencies — I see them gaming, texting, Tumblering, WhatsApping and Facebooking. They’ve changed their status from single to married to divorced in less than a month. They’ve jumped from one job to another, this country to that. Whether they’re in a restaurant with their families, a movie with their friends, at meetings in their companies or even at a red light in traffic, their fingers are typing at a pace that will give them arthritis in their 40s. What have you done, Steve?” questioned Bell as they munched on some theplas and dhoklas that some Gujaratis shared with them, despite the recent drop in Apple shares bought at a premium prior to the wizard’s demise.


“It’s all got to do with FOMO,” explained Steve. “The Fear of Missing Out. Technology has made everyone competitive and everyone wants to be everywhere so that they can experience everything. No one wants to leave a party early, just in case they might miss out on what’s to follow, everyone wants to sleep a bare minimum so that life doesn’t pass them by. My device helps everyone stay connected with the Universe at all times — the tweet smell of excess,’ he punned, as the whiff of dhansak and sali boti made its way to the table thanks to the Godiwalla family, whose reach is beyond anyone’s understanding. 


“Oh my GOD,” sighed Bell as he reminisced about the Good Old Days. He recalled how he collected botanical specimens as a child, created a wheat dehusking device at the flour mill where he worked by day, and then gazed at the stars above at night. He smiled at how, without any formal training, he mastered the piano, and how his preoccupation with his mother’s deafness led him to study acoustics; he learnt not only to write visible speech but to identify any symbol and its accompanying sound. He recalled how he romanced his wife through his love for art, music and poetry. “Nobody does this anymore,” he said despondently, but the achaar served with the dhansak brought back the shimmer in his eyes.


“We have apps for all this now!” Steve interrupted excitedly. “You can learn any language or musical instrument, calorie-count your diet, send flowers to your loved ones, customize poetry, check the weather, book your travel, and even take a trip to space and back. You can play your favourite game, karaoke to your desired song, solve puzzles and find answers. You can use the phone I created as a flashlight, sketching pad, thermometer, watch, compass, and even as a mosquito repellent. What more can you ask for, Graham?” he said, while gorging on some delicious dumplings that the Chinese offered in paradise only by default of their population.


“It’s not the same, Steve,” retorted the old man. “The difference is similar to the pleasure of actually eating this dumpling and seeing some funny Chinese teenager posing with it on your phone with the bowl in one hand and a ‘V’ sign in the other. Do you know, I considered my most famous invention as an intrusion to my real work as a scientist, and refused to even have the telephone in my study? On the other hand, your device is all over the place, distracting us in everything we do.


Are you aware that a recent study published by the British Psychological Society found that the use of smart phones, even if it’s only sitting next to you at your desk, could increase one’s stress rate? The number of times you actually check your phone and an increase in ‘phantom vibrations’ are hand-in-hand with rising stress levels. Did you know that most of the pieces of your phone sent back for repair are due to it having fallen into the pot while someone was suppose to be doing his JOB? No pun intended, Steve, but my invention never faced that problem!”


After a sumptuous meal it was time for dessert. Both the friends avoided anything sweet and stuck to fruits – blackberries, blueberries, apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries. Bell had died from the complications of diabetes and Jobs of a pancreatic tumour that produced excessive insulin, an irony so enigmatic that it connected them mysteriously.


Bell put his hand around Steve’s shoulder, fervently hoping that the current generation would slow down. “Let them enjoy the sunrise, read fairly tales to their little ones, cook meals for each other and play real sport. Allow them to let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO — The Joy of Missing Out: missing out on things that are not important. Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them, Steve, not the other way around! Instead of creating history like you and I did, people are busy deleting it”


At the peak of this highly philosophical advice, Jobs’s phone went off again. It was Bill Gates tweeting a Hipstamatic picture of him taking a walk with his wife and dog on the beach and into the sunset, with four letters captioning the frame: JOMO.


Bell choked on the blackberry, or was it the Apple – I’m not sure!