The day after their arrival in India, The Beatles managed to sneak out of their New Delhi hotel, the Oberoi, and did some sightseeing.
That was our first time in India, and it was quite interesting; but we had a bad day when the guys from British Airways took us out to see a camel drawing water – they go round in circles to work the pump where the water comes out. You could always tell the people who worked for BA in Delhi, because they all wore ties even though it was about 300 degrees in the shade. One guy thought it would be a bit of fun to jump on the poor animal that was walking round – probably that was all it would ever do in its life, drag this harness and draw the water. It was crazy, so we all got a bit angry with him.
But then we went shopping, and going around looking at the shops is probably the biggest memory of that time in Delhi. We were offered huge pieces of ivory carvings, and we thought it was all too expensive – huge chess pieces, which would now be antiques and worth fortunes. But I’m glad we didn’t buy it; even in those days we were thinking not to buy ivory.
The Beatles each bought Indian instruments from Rikhi Ram & Sons, a shop on New Delhi’s Connaught Circle.
I bought a sitar. I had a guy bring them over – again, we couldn’t really get out easily. I bought a sitar off a man called Rikhi Ram, whose shop is still there in Delhi to this day.
We got in cars and had a ride out of Delhi to see what it looked like. That was quite an eye-opener. We were in enormous old late-1950s Cadillacs, and we went to a little village and got out of the cars. We all had Nikon cameras, and that was when it first sunk into me about the poverty. There were little kids coming up to us with flies all over them and asking for money: ‘Baksheesh! Baksheesh!’ Our cameras were worth more money than the whole village would earn in a lifetime. It was a very strange feeling seeing this: Cadillacs and poverty.
The Beatles flew back to England on this day. Their overnight flight left late in the evening, and they arrived at London Airport at 6am on 8 July.