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December 2, 2001
0020 IST

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George Harrison was a humble and friendly person: Saeed Naqvi

Seasoned journalist Saeed Naqvi got to know the Beatles when they came to India on their spiritual quest.

Here he talks about George Harrison, the band's lead guitarist, song writer and the most understated Beatle, who was strongly influenced by the Indian way of life and introduced Indian classical music to the West by playing the sitar and using ragas.

The Beatles represented the social unrest among the Western youth in the 1960s. Tired of the materialism of the West, they were looking for something spiritual. They symbolised the rebellion against the prevailing social order.

The Beatles' love affair with Indian spirituality and Indian classical music started after George Harrison met sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Akbar Ali Khan.

It was through Indian classical music that George Harrison wanted to experience Indian spirituality.

So all the four Beatles came down to spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's camp Churasi Kutiya at Rishikesh in Uttar Pradesh.

During my interaction with Harrison, I found him to be a humble and friendly person, who was very interested in India, unlike John Lennon, his band mate, who was arrogant and unsocial.

Harrison had a good sense of humour.

Among the Beatles, Harrison was very fond of Paul McCartney and would always talk about him. Later, however, he fell out with Paul.

Harrison displayed the tactful side of his personality when Beatle drummer Ringo Starr whipped up a storm describing Mahesh Yogi's camp as a cheap holiday resort, where people just had fun.

Harrison tried to pacify Starr, saying he would take up the matter with Mahesh Yogi and that going public about it would give the camp a bad name.

But Starr refused to budge and left the camp. However, the other three Beatles - Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison - stayed on.

While the others indulged themselves in their rooms, Harrison would go and take a dip in the Ganges in the morning and spend the rest of the day with Mahesh Yogi.

Harrison became a devoted disciple of Mahesh Yogi and took to learning the sitar.

So impressed was he by Mahesh Yogi that he wrote songs about him.

Harrison had a deep interest in the ragas. He incorporated his favourite Raag Bagheshwari in his composition Norwegian Woods.

As told to Basharat Peer.

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