There is no easy explanation for such vastly dissimilar people as George (Harrison) and Ravi Shankar instantly connecting with each other, almost as if their relationship was preordained. Their family backgrounds were completely different. The Beatle was the son of a bus conductor father and a shop assistant mother, both with modest means and even more modest educational qualifications. The sitar maestro’s father was a statesman, lawyer and scholar, and his mother the daughter of a wealthy landowner. George grew up in a working-class suburb of Liverpool.
Ravi Shankar, the scion of an erudite Bengali Brahmin family, was in Paris by the age of ten and touring cities of Europe and America as a teenager. He spoke fluently in four languages, was a voracious reader and a great aficionado of the classical arts, including theatre, opera and painting, and of art films, while the rock star had barely read a dozen books and had no clue about finer cultural pursuits. The sitarist was trained in a meticulously crafted musical style by an illustrious teacher who was carrying on a tradition that went back several centuries. The guitarist learnt his craft on his own as he went along, free from any rules or conventions, improvising sounds and words that he and the band members felt would work best with the audience. Ravi Shankar was flamboyant, articulate and constantly seeking new friends and experiences. George, in contrast, was quiet and private, wrapped up in thoughts that he struggled to express in words or song. One was a dominant alpha male who always wanted to be in the limelight, while the other preferred to hang around on the sidelines playing a supportive role. The two were separated by a chasm of differences with hardly any common meeting ground.
Yet, within an incredibly brief period, George and Ravi Shankar drew close to each other. Hardly any time passed since their first meeting before the music maestro agreed to give the Beatle personal lessons in the sitar, a privilege for which many advanced students in India had to wait for years. The two would be in constant touch after that and, in less than three months after they met at the Angadi dinner, they had reworked their busy schedules to travel together across India for a month and a half.
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