Saturday, March 22, 2008

Peter Bendrey(?)

I went to Niri's shop one evening, as I often did. I saw a sunburned foreigner, longhaired, wearing trousers, which were more pajamas than trousers, carrying a bulky bag on his shoulders. I was introduced to him. We were an informal lot and I was introduced to him but he was not introduced to me. The introduction was something like "He is Anil. He is the one I told you about. He plays the Veene". Peter, that was his name, picked my left hand and inspected the middle and forefingers. He was looking at the grove that had formed at the tips of the fingers by years of Veene Practice. It was also black with the paste of the lubricant used for playing the Veene and the oxides formed on the frets.

I was impressed that he knew what to look for in a Veene player.

I hardly realised how much more about him was there to be impressed with. I will tell you a few instances of those.

I learnt that the bulky bag he carried contained his music collection. Almost of all of it was Indian classical music – both Hindustani and Carnatic.

Peter is a carpenter. He specialises in restoring old timber houses in England. As I understand it, he lives on the premises to be restored and over a couple of months restores the house. He does this for a couple of years and then takes a trip to some part of the world. He often visited Mysore. He would appear 'out of the blue', stay a month or so, visit various other places in India and return to England.

Once when he was in Mysore he was looking depressed. Niri asked him why he was depressed. He said that it was because John Lennon was killed. It had happened the previous day. Niri was surprised that it had such an effect on him. It was only then that he revealed that he was once on the Beatles team and had worked on setting up their stage for them. This is something he had not revealed to anyone. I came to know about this only from Niri and never asked Peter about this.

Once when he was in Mysore, I invited him to my home, my parents' home for the evening meal. Dinner is too grand a word I am sure. As he came in, he was taking his footwear off at the door, like a normal Indian. He froze and listened to the music that was playing somewhere in the house. He exclaimed "Ah, Doreswamy Iyengar, the one and the only LP" and continued taking his footwear off. Wow, that was some powers of recognition.

He ate his meal with generous helpings of Chatnipudi (Literally means chutney-powder - an all purpose additive in many south Indian homes. It is mixed with rice and eaten with a dash of ghee or oil. It could replace the chutney, sambar or any other side-dish with Rotis, Dosés and Idlis or whatever. It is mixed with curds-rice to spice it up a bit. It is eaten with bread. Only your imagination, or the lack of it, puts a limit on how you can use it) He ate it with such gusto that I started sweating since I like my food bland. But he was alright. Of course, his ears and nose went red and he was sucking in air over his tongue to cool it. But he was undeterred. He later declared that was one of the best things he had eaten for quite some time.

He also declared to me: "Most people make much of French and Chinese and other cooking. But I consider the normal south Indian cooking as the zenith of the cooking arts!" High praise indeed.

On another visit of his, I met him in Niri's shop again. The first thing he asked me was "Is it true that Maharajapuram is dead?" I confirmed with regret that he was. The next exchange really surprised me. "Is it true that he died in a car accident?" True again and I confirmed that it was so. He shook his head with deep regret and murmured, "oh, not the death for a musician. A musician deserves a better death". It sounds so typically Indian and coming from a 'white man' it was incongruous.

He once came home and I was walking with Peter to see him off at the bus stop near my home. We lived in an area called Saraswathipuram. Some one had started a "Wine Shop" there. (As is the case so often in India, it is a shop where you get many types of alcoholic beverages - except wine!) He stopped in front of the shop and looked at the name with horror. "Saraswathi Wine Stores! Oh, My God!" he whined. "What a travesty. A wine shop in the name of the Goddess of learning? Oh no!", was his lament. I was amazed at his sensitivity. I had seen the name too, had regretted it and carried on.

Then there was something to cheer him up. On either side of the door of the shop there were advertisements for "Soma Beer". They caught his eyes and he smiled and commented, "Ah, that is a little more appropriate!

This is the story of a "foreigner" who was more Indian in many ways. Here was a "hippie" (as many would classify him at sight, those days) who was aghast that MTV was coming to India and declared that it was a "travesty of Indian culture". He was the guy who made the profound observation, "Have you noticed, Anil? The technology for music recording and reproduction is making so much progress and is becoming so much more affordable and at the same time, the common man's taste in music is going further and further down?"

I have not seen him in quite some years and have no means of contacting him. I hope he is fine. I knew him mostly as Peter and remembered him once telling me that his name was Peter Bendrey. When I looked for him on the net, all I found was a production assistant to Yoko Ono! Could it be him?


  1. Really enjoyed this post.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I read your blog with great interest. You were a very important person, in my own personal de briefing, from a very private experience. A hippie I was most certainly not. My Lennon connection was much more profound than anything I could have conveyed to you at that time. I was so rare a character that none of you could figure me out, I was larger than life, and at the same time the biggest fool who ever made the BIG time. I've only just begun. It's really great to reconnect.

  4. Hi Peter! What a pleasure! THis is the magic the net is capable of eh!

    Now mind you, I did not call you a hippie, I only said that you would be classified as one at first sight!

    Give me your phone number and I shall call you.


  5. Hi Anil
    I am a friend of Peter's, we set him up with his own Blogger and gmail. Perhaps you can send your email address to him, from his Blogger page. We made the link so you could find him. In the meantime, I will get the message to him that you have read his comment ! .. and have requested a phone number.
    Kind wishes
    ps i will check the box below to have follow-up comments sent to his new gmail account.

  6. Hello Anil Jagalur and Peter Nadarasika. If you please, I would like to get in touch with Peter Bendrey. I was an old friend of his through long time friends, one of whom still lives in Provincetown. I have not seen Peter B. since the late 1970's. He changed my life in a very short time! I hear bits about him from time to time, but would really like to reconnect. Thank you. I can be reached at: Peace and light.