Beat Generation may be as removed as a me-too unicorn is from Jack Kerouac. Startup business models are after all largely meant to fulfil consumer needs, although the problem may be there are too many trying to meet similar demands. The Beat Generation of authors rejected what was popular and the norm, thriving on liberation and exploration of all hues.
Blame this seemingly outlandish association to a reread of Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road when in the throes of putting together Forbes India’s annual ’30 Under 30’ edition. On the Road’s protagonists Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty embark on a wild road romp from America’s East to West Coast. With generous doses of jazz, drugs and poetry, the duo breaks all rules and becomes “the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”.
On that adventure, the only people who matter for Kerouac are “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live…desirous of everything at the same time…”. Fellow Beat-Gen writer Allen Ginsberg was on a similar wavelength: “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” What these not-so-gentle men were trying to convey was the joy of dreaming up a huge canvas to which a new colour is added on every bend—and savouring every splash of it along the way.
Which leads us to the memorable lines from Apple’s iconic ‘Think Different, To the Crazy Ones’ campaign, conceived by agency TBWA\Chiat\Day: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo.” The campaign, which featured footage of maverick minds from Albert Einstein to John Lennon, captures Steve Jobs’ single-minded obsession with innovation; about being different and breaking existing rules.
Jobs reminded us it’s not only writers, musicians and artists who tend to be free-spirited. The 2023 Forbes India 30 Under 30 compilation—the list includes the youthful and enterprising across finance, technology, art, entertainment and sports—reminds us that the (free) spirt of Jobs and Kerouac is alive and kicking. Misbah Ashraf, brought up in Bihar Sharif, is an entrepreneur in evolution. As Rajiv Singh writes in ‘Jar of Gold’ on page 60, at 29, Ashraf is into his third venture, a consumer finance product.
Also going with the flow is actor Kalidas Jayaram, eschewing sameness and embracing versatility. Jayaram let on to Divya Shekhar a beautiful piece of advice from a senior, Thalapathy Vijay. “Some people worship the river, and some people throw stones at it. But the river is unconcerned, it just keeps flowing. My job is to just keep flowing like the river.” For more on how he is bucking the tide, don’t miss ‘A Star in the Making’ on page 78.
Yet, perhaps it can only be a visual artist that can do the best justice to Kerouac’s maxim of “live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry”. Rithika Pandey, the winner in the art category, was born in Varanasi, grew up in African countries, returned to India, and then landed in Wales where she did some breakthrough work. If Kerouac captured the human condition in vivid colours, Pandey may be going a step further. “I try to…see how we relate to the more-than-human world, which includes plants, animals, land and invisible forces that shape events,” she tells Jasodhara Banerjee. For more, go to ‘Alternative Visions of the World’ on page 52.