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  Opinion   Columnists  21 Apr 2023  Shobhaa De | A big slice of the Apple pie, please: India waits

Shobhaa De | A big slice of the Apple pie, please: India waits

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to
Published : Apr 22, 2023, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Apr 22, 2023, 12:10 am IST

The Apple boss was not denied his Bollywood moment, as he gamely bit into a pricey vada pav

Apple CEO Tim Cook during the opening of India's first Apple retail store at BKC, in Mumbai, Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photo: PTI)
 Apple CEO Tim Cook during the opening of India's first Apple retail store at BKC, in Mumbai, Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photo: PTI)

Hey, guys… there’s a new Tim Tim in town, and the original Tim Tim (Taimur, son of Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor) is feeling left out of the paparazzi frenzy.  It’s Tim Cook’s turn to steal the cute toddler’s thunder and hog the headlines. Remember, there was a time not so long ago, when Taimur was the most stalked and photographed celeb kid in India, with several fan clubs to call his own. Every gurgle and diaper change of the pouty-cutie made it to websites with ardent fans clamouring for more and more of Tim Tim as the chhweetie-pie baba went about his business, occasionally waving and blowing kisses to the paps.

The story with the new Tim Tim is same-same, but different. Of course, there’s a Bollywood connection: it’s mandatory for any high-profile firang visitor to Mumbai’s shores to practice the perfect “Namastey” and pencil in a photo-op with a top Bollywood star. The Apple boss was not denied his Bollywood moment, as he gamely bit into a pricey vada pav (120 bucks at this fancy restaurant and 20 bucks at roadside stalls). Tim Sir was encouraged to try the desi snack by Mumbai’s most loved Bollywood star, Aamchhi Madhuri. Mercifully, he didn’t ask her to perform Çhholi ke Peechhy Kya Hai… One bite later, Tim Tim was ready with his own bytes: “India’s people and culture are set for an extraordinary journey ahead.” There you have it: the compliment and validation we were waiting for from “the world’s most admired CEO”! Aapun ko Oscar ke saath ek Apple bhi mil gaya! Aren’t we lucky? In both these big wins, what we are downplaying is the commercial bonanza Indian markets represent to all those looking at mega-returns. It’s dhanda!

Britain is kadka, as is most of Europe. With the war in Ukraine still raging, whether it’s American movies or American products — the numbers are here. The potential is here. The big bucks are here. Tim Cook’s well-timed arrival is a huge signal to others waiting to crack a market that’s this sizeable, this affluent. Our middle class has purchasing power, knowledge and ambition to gobble up the best from across the world. What Apple is offering is not just a big bite of a juicy fruit… it’s an entire bowl. Plus, an Apple pie as bonus. So, let’s keep things in perspective. We welcome an Apple store in the Big Mango (Mumbai), but remember… it’s just business.

Ironically, the day we were going gaga over Tim Bhai, I bailed out on my iPhone and switched to a Samsung. A far more modest and pocket friendly A54. I am in the midst of re-establishing an old Samsung relationship. It’s tough. A little like rejecting a loyal, loving, dependable boyfriend and switching to a swashbuckling competitor with “exclusive” advantages, only to discover you were better off with the trustworthy, non-demanding original -- the one that understood you and your specific requirements. I struggled for three years to master the iPhone, but it gave up on me and died… The neat, sleek, super-smart thing had given me a massive inferiority complex by being far smarter! Well… this week, I was done with the iPhone’s tantrums and went to the friendly neighbourhood service centre to get it fixed. I waited for 45 minutes with a token in hand for my number to be called. I had to put down a thousand bucks just for a “diagnosis” by an unfriendly, surly-faced, unkempt chap with BO. Meanwhile, a sweet, elderly Gujarati lady who has recently relocated after 35 years in New Jersey was also staring forlornly at her iPhone which had a smashed display screen. “What happened?” I asked solicitously. She shook her head, saying: “A monkey dropped it!” I thought she was referring to her grandchild. But no! It was a huge simian that had taken a fancy to the lady’s phone while she exercised on the terrace of her ninth floor flat at Walkeshwar — a tony, upscale area in South Mumbai, close to the governor’s magnificent colonial mansion. I burst out laughing… and so did she! The monkey was an obstinate chap — despite pleading with him, he refused to let go. Two more monkeys arrived. She offered them mangoes at a safe distance, hoping her phone would be abandoned for the mangoes. No chance! The mangoes were enjoyed, but the phone remained with Monkey Number 1, who was busy scrolling through it. The lady invoked Hanumanji’s name and recited the Hanuman Chalisa… to no effect. Finally, perhaps not finding any porn videos, the angry monkey left in a huff, but not before tossing the phone from the terrace.

Timji, make sure your phones are monkey-proof, elephant-proof, leopard-proof and tiger-proof. Indian animals love imported gadgets.

To me, a phone is a phone is a phone. But I can relate to the high anxiety generated by a bust phone. It’s like the amputation of a body part, or worse, a lobotomy. Our dependency on the nifty gadget has made us all slaves, granting a phone almost limitless power over our lives. This, at a time when we need to channel our inner Dalai Lama and regain calm! It’s perhaps best to make peace with the drug also called a phone, and admit our abject dependency. This is exactly what brings Tim Cook to India — he’s here to peddle the new “narcotic” on a mega scale to an avaricious market of 1.4 billion desi consumers. Going by the latest UN estimates, India has the biggest youth cohort, with 26 per cent in the 10-24 age group — Timji’s constituency.

Meanwhile, there’s never a dull moment in Mumbai as we idly debate whether or not Ajit Pawar will be the cause of one of the two political “earthquakes” in Maharashtra, as his cousin Supriya Sule dramatically announced. Yaaney ke… will her “Dada” jump ship, join the BJP and secure the gaddi as the new chief minister? A loyalist was heard raving: “Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar are the best combo for Maharashtra. Ajit is so capable!” That, we know. Capable of what? That too we know! The other earthquake may have referred to the SC judgment in the Shiv Sena case. Till then, let’s not spoil current Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde’s mood -- the heat in Mumbai is at a record high. The weather, too! Let him enjoy the perks of the post while he still can….!

Tags: apple, tim cook, apple products, bollywood, taimur ali khan