George Harrison was in Bengaluru in 1973, and nobody knew!

Bengaluru: 50 years of the Beatles is cause for celebration and stories of meetings with the Fabulous Four are slowly making an appearance. George Harrison's love for India is well known, with many a mystical tourist destination laying claim to a 'house in which George Harrison lived'. Little is known, however, of his love for South Indian food, which brought him all the way to a traditional Jayanagar home in Bengaluru, back in 1973. 

Pandit N. Rama Rao was one  of South India's most eminent sitar exponents, often credited with popularising the instrument in the region. In the 1950s, he travelled to Delhi, where he became one of the first disciples of Pandit Ravi Shankar. The Beatles had made their first trip to India in 1968, "at the height of their fame," explains sitar exponent Pandit Shubhendra Rao, who was all of eight years old when George Harrison came a-knocking at his father's home! 

George Harrison, who returned several times afterwards, was forced to travel incognito and hide out in the sterility of five-star hotels. "During one trip to Mumbai, the press found out he was there and it was a complete mess," Pt. Rao recalls. Even so, Harrison never lost his facination with the authentic Indian experience and after some debate, Pt. Ravi Shankar, who had "grown rather protective of him," allowed a trip to Bengaluru.

"He asked my father to host him in the city and he arrived with his first wife, Pattie Boyd," says Pt. Rao. He was accompanied by Pt. Ravi Shankar's nephew. "We had just moved into our house in Jayanagar," says Pt. Rao. Harrison came anticipating the works – he wanted to wear a dhoti, sit cross-legged on the floor and eat off a banana leaf, Pt. Rao laughs. 

"As it happens, we ate all our meals that way, in fact, we only bought a dining table one year later!" 

The couple arrived at 7 pm, where they were treated to a full South Indian thaali cooked by Pt. Rao's mother. "He was so fascinated by it all, I was very young but I have vivid memories of the incident," he says. 

"He loved all of it, down to the anna saaru! There was no music that evening, unfortunately, although in retrospect, I wish I had seized the opportunity!" 


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