What the Taj Mahal and Apple Have in Common

53 Comments

tajpanoranicview1Earlier this morning, along with Matt Mullenweg, I decided to visit the Taj Mahal, India’s heritage site and truly a wonder of our world. I hadn’t been to see it in almost three decades; scenes from “Slumdog Millionaire” admittedly helped me take the four-hour car ride down to Agra from New Dehli.

We spent hours visiting the monument, which is at its very core a symbol of a man’s love for his wife, learning very detailed historical information from our able guide. I was both spellbound and speechless. [digg=http://digg.com/apple/Weird_Analogy_GigaOm_Just_Compared_Apple_To_The_Taj_Mahal]

As a child, I remember experiencing the Taj with wonder and amazement. As an adult, I appreciate the pain and patience of the artisans who built it some 350-odd years ago. As a kid I was awestruck by the notion of an empress’s mausoleum; the grown-up version of me was blown away by its beauty.

As I walked across the cool marble, the afternoon sun baking overhead and an almost-dry River Yamuna in the background, I summed up what I was feeling in a tweet: “Just came out of Taj. Intense. Profound. Symmetry. Dedication. Passion. Love. Humbling. Perfection.” (Follow me around Delhi on Twitter.)

Ironically, those are some of the same adjectives I’ve used to describe Apple (s aapl) and its products. I don’t necessarily want to equate the majestic Taj with mere machines, but they are undeniably similar.

For instance, at the Taj we saw intricate flowers and fauna carved into marble and filled with coral, onyx and jade. The three-dimensional nature of these patterns were repeated thousands of time without a blemish.

The geometrical symmetry of the complex extends from one corner to another. Even the shadow reflected in the pool in front of the Taj is perfectly symmetrical with the building.

Emperor Shah Jahan had a perfect replica of a mosque created to give balance to the whole complex. The four minarets lean out just ever so slightly so that in the unlikely event that they do fall, they won’t damage the main building. Now that is some attention to detail.

The Taj is a collection of small perfections that add up to one large perfection, a treasure that cannot adequately be captured by words, photos, eyes, or even the human brain. It was one man’s vision, brought to life by thousands of others who worked tirelessly over a period spanning more than 20 years. There will be nothing like it ever again.

If you had to pick a modern, and technology-specific, analogy of this high ideal, it would be Apple. Like the Taj, where the architects used a double dome to cool the tomb, and elegant air ducts to circulate the cooling air throughout the entire building, the company has combined form, function and art to come up with perfection.

Steve Jobs and thousands of Apple staff have spent more than 25 years trying to create machines that pay similar attention to minor things, sometimes seemingly useless ones. The ability to create Wi-Fi networks comes to mind, as does the ability to zoom in to better view documents. The aluminum unibody of the MacBook Air seems like little more than a beautiful design feature until you realize it’s used to cool the entire machine — just like the double domes and air ducts of the Taj.

And now, sitting in a car on a clogged highway on our way back to New Dehli, with Matt dozing off beside me, I’m thinking about how rushed we all are, and how being so rushed inhibits our ability to appreciate the opportunities we have to create small perfections. Our short-term focus is a sad reflection on society, one that has made it too easy to forget about the human ability to create something that can last generations.

I’m so glad I saw the Taj today.

For more pictures of my trip to the Taj, please visit my personal blog.

53 Comments

Richard Jones

Every time I read this post I literally throw up …..I can only imagine finally achieving a life long goal of attending Haj and spending that time daydreaming about NIKE!!!!! WTF

taj mahaj

one more think to add. the walk up to the taj mahaj is most beautiful to see. when you get closer and closer
it is beautiful.

joe johnson

the tak mahaj is such a beautiful place to go. i have been here twice and just love it. i wonder how
hard it was to build.

The Agra Indian

Here I would like to highlight one more thing about TAJ.

It looks pink in the morning, white in the noon and golden in the moonlight. This was published in one of the leading magazine in India.

Praveen

Dude,
Tajmahal was never constructed out of love. You should know better than that. Tajmahal was another king trying to tout his name. And do some more research, you can find plenty of evidence that it is not what it is made to sound like. Interesting comparision with apple iphone. Iphone is just another mans ego and some serious marketing.
Very close to the way in which historians turned out tajmahal into a symbol of love. He got her pregnant 14 times despite her ill health his lust never ceased eventually ended killing her. His accomplishments were so pitiful he did this in despair for history to remember him. Think about it Aurangazeg his son who sold caps and Quran to earn livelihood could not see this crap and had to put him in Jail. But history of course always contorts things into romantic and unrealistic ways.
My two cents…

Justin Thomas

Inspiring post. I starting brainstorming over a project about 5 years ago. I worked hard to perfect it as much as a could only to find out after it’s release it was far from perfect. Really, really far from perfect. I didn’t do anything for almost a year, just thinking about the design here and there and what could be done better. Then about a year ago I started up on it again. I’ve noticed lately I’ve been trying to rush myself to get things done. I’m not going to take forever to make it perfect, but after reading your post, I am going to take however much time it takes to be sure that what’s done is done well and it works well.

Again, inspiring post. Thanks!

izuka01

Came here from WP top posts. I have never been to the Taj…someday I hope to. Read loads about it. This description here is just beautiful! comparison to the Mac – awesome.

One thing that did strike me in this post was –

an almost-dry River Yamuna in the background,

Really? Here I was thinking Yamuna was a perennial river!!! This kind of scares me actually!

Apar

Came here from WP top posts. I have never been to the Taj…someday I hope to. Read loads about it. This description here is just beautiful! comparison to the Mac – awesome.

One thing that did strike me in this post was –

an almost-dry River Yamuna in the background,

Really? Here I was thinking Yamuna was a perennial river!!! This kind of scares me actually!

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