New Delhi, India: Ajit Singh, the 88-year-old Indian music shop owner who befriended the Beatles during their wonderful mystery trip to Rishikesh more than half a century ago, has died.
The Beatles arrived at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram (retreat) in northern India in February 1968, seeking spirituality, new experiences, and a reprieve from Beatlemania back home.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr wrote much of their landmark “White Album” there, energized by their new surroundings overlooking the Ganges river.
Singh remembers the trio walking into his musical instrument business in nearby Dehradun one day, turbaned, emaciated, and with a croaky voice, in an interview with AFP in 2019.
He recalled striking up a conversation with the Liverpudlians outside, who had been hounded by a throng, and “inviting them home for tea.” He later repaired John Lennon’s guitar and performed at Harrison’s 25th birthday celebration.
“They were very polite with me, they were not haughty or something,” he told AFP with twinkly eyes, in the shop that he still ran half a century later the Pratap Music House.
#BeatlesWhiteAlbum “(In Rishikesh) I was in a room for five days meditating. I wrote hundreds of songs. I couldn’t sleep and I was hallucinating like crazy, having dreams where you could smell. (…) It was just a way of getting there, and you could go on amazing trips” – John pic.twitter.com/WsSLsXTAQv
— The Beatles (@thebeatles) November 2, 2018
“I always said to people that they were good people.”
Singh believed Lennon was the band’s most talented member, according to local journalist Raju Gusain, who has been at the forefront in renovating the decrepit former ashram in recent years.
AJIT SINGH AT HIS STORE. IMAGE VIA KUWAIT TIMES
“Ajit Singh was a lovely chap,” Gusain told AFP, confirming his death earlier this week, recalling how he loved to recount his old stories about the Beatles.
“He promised he would provide some photographs of Harrison’s birthday bash, but he failed to locate them and used to make excuses,” Gusain said.
#BeatlesWhiteAlbum “Although (Rishikesh) was very beautiful and I was meditating about eight hours a day, I was writing the most miserable songs on earth. (…) I think we all go through heaven and hell every day; just accept that. To feel is to live” – John pic.twitter.com/WJBDcYUCCG
— The Beatles (@thebeatles) October 25, 2018
“He said he was not that organized and would find them one day and give me a call. We both used to laugh about that.”
According to The Times of India, Singh was a very talented musician in his own right, performing internationally and becoming one of the top-rated musicians on All India Radio.
He was one of the few people in the world who could play the vichitra veena, a traditional string instrument that rests horizontally in front of the kneeling musician.
“I used to tell Ajit… to pen down his experiences for posterity and write a book,” the paper quoted life-long friend Mercy Phuntsog Nath as saying. “He would nod his head and say, ‘I am writing’.”
With AFP inputs.