Here comes the bun (hold the ketchup).
India held a very special place in Beatle George Harrison’s heart. Infact, his leanings towards Indian culture, food, music, and spirituality shaped his entire life. Apart from being an early proponent of transcendental meditation, George Harrison also became a lifelong follower of the Hare Krishna movement. He dressed up in Indian traditional wear, meditated, became a vegetarian, read Indian scriptures and made innumerable visits to India.
On these trips to the country and specially to Mumbai (then Bombay), he would record tracks with local musicians and learn the sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar. The music for the Beatles song, The Inner Light, was recorded entirely in Mumbai with the help of Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Shiv Kumar Sharma.
With Hari Prasad Chaurasia. Image source: hariprasachaurasia.com
George Harrison also introduced his fellow Beatles to the wonders of India. The fab four made a famous visit to Hrishikesh to spend time with the famed guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where they wrote almost half the songs of their White Album. While the other three did not take to India so much (it was more of a passing fad), George Harrison continued his spiritual journey with the country.
The Beatles in Rishikesh. Image source: thetoc.gr
Many old timers have their ‘almost famous’ stories about meeting the rock star, but here’s one that got lost in time and is now making news all thanks to Mr. Harrison’s guitar which he gifted to Mumbai.
The story begins somewhere in the 70’s. George (as I like to call him) was visiting for one of his collaborations with Pandit Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar was staying in Pali Hill, the quaint little suburb in Bandra. Sick of spending half his life in 5 star hotels, the star preferred to stay in smaller (non celebrity-type) places. He found one close to Pali Hill. Hotel Oscar (today more famous as Shatranj) was perfect.
True love, with Pandit Ravi Shankar. Image source: googleusercontent.com
Businessman and musician Khalif Mitha’s maternal grandfather Ismail Padamsee lived right across in Padamsee Apartments. Says Khalif, “When my dynamic grandfather found out that George Harrison from the Beatles was staying right opposite his house, he did what any music loving man would do. He walked over to the hotel and invited George Harrison for tea. And Mr. Harrison said yes!” His wife Olivia Harrison later revealed that while in India, he loved visiting people’s homes. He loved the real India.
He had such a good time with the family that he started going there every evening after his music sessions. It became quite a routine. It became his home away from home.
All things must pass and so came the time to leave India. But he wanted to gift the Padamsee family something. He gifted them his guitar. And so the guitar lay gently weeping, till Khalif himself grew up and got interested in music. He discovered the hidden treasure in his house.
From Britain to Bandra, Arpana with the treasured guitar
Over a period of time, he figured his dear friend Arpana Gvalani was more crazy about the instrument than he would ever be, and so he passed it on to her. The guitar was finally out in the open. Arpana’s Café Gostana, specializing in burgers, tucked away in Bandra, is the proud owner of the guitar today. This little café where many artists and musicians come for a quick bite and inspiration, and which hosts many impromptu jam sessions, has another star in its midst.
And in its honour, Arpana also decided to name one of the burgers after George Harrison. Of course it’s vegetarian, with seven pulses, simply called “George.”
So any time you feel like experiencing a little bit of George, you know where to go.
The George Harrison burger at Gostana
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