First Person: The burden of number one

The new world measures everything: popularity, personalities and brands, even philanthropists. And goes by the readings.

Written by Leher Kala | Updated: October 13, 2014 1:37:32 pm
Apple resellers ready for pre-Diwali iPhone 6 launch, but iPhone 6 Plus could be delayed Apple resellers are expecting to start the iPhone 6 16 GB sales by October 18 at a price of around Rs. 55,000.

On the Loose

On October 17, Apple will start midnight sales for its phones in India, in keeping with its tradition everywhere else in the world. The iPhone 6 already has record pre launch orders. Retailers are counting on its exclusivity to reel in customers and we can be sure the first person to buy the iPhone 6 officially, will make headlines on the 18th.

It’s a mystery to me, why anyone would waste their time in a long line on a Friday night for a product that’s here to stay. And which can just as easily be purchased the next day at a far more reasonable hour (Apple has ensured enough stock). Since this generation hasn’t seen the struggle for Independence and have escaped largely unscathed from riots and famine, maybe this is a shot at history.

Bragging rights, for having been in “the first midnight line for iPhones in India”. The waiting list or in this case the line, is a technology company’s answer to the velvet rope that keeps the crowds out at the Oscars. Or at popular nightclubs.

Status is no longer just about what money can buy, but how fast you can buy it. The first mover advantage was restricted to business moves, on the premise that the first entrant can gain control of resources that followers may not be able to. That maxim has come to rule our lives even when the resources are infinite. Like the iPhone 6. Or Hermes’ fabled Birkin bag, the ultimate acquisition of obsessive fashionistas everywhere, that has thrived on the illusion of scarcity. It’s simply a bag, but nobody seems to question why Hermes doesn’t up production. Indians, anyway, have always been crazy about top order. There are more kids with names starting with A than any other alphabet in Delhi because parents want their childrens’ roll numbers up ahead. I have a friend who deliberately named her child with Z to give him, as she says “five extra minutes through life”, a minor revolt against the lust for number one.

The new world measures everything: popularity, personalities and brands, even philanthropists. And goes by the readings. That’s why there’s a grim irony about all of India frantically Googling Kailash Satyarthi this week. Rarely does there come a complete unknown, proving there’s a space for brilliance and obscurity. The concept of popularity or ‘the best’ whatever that might be, is deeply confusing with the data flying at us. I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas is the most downloaded song in Internet’s history but Bitter Sweet Symphony by a now defunct group The Verve has been covered by influential bands like U2 and Coldplay. Their value is both, quantifiable and elusive. India’s Mars Mission is a significant achievement even if three other countries did it before. But there’s a deflating tone to the conversation around it, a depressing reminder that there’s not much scope for second or third best.

Judging creativity is doubly challenging since subjectivity is the norm and validation, a human frailty. It’s a good time to think about Satyarthi’s philosophy of working tirelessly without recognition. His space in the public domain may have been small, but his life turned out to be very big.

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