Animals lost a good friend this week with the passing of the legendary sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. It’s hard to believe he’s gone – just last week, when the Grammy nominations were announced, the first thing I did was read the World category to see whether Ravi had received a nomination. He had. I consider myself very lucky to have gotten to know Ravi and be invited into his home.
When I went to help set up PETA India back in 1999, the only Indian celebrity I’d ever heard of was Ravi. His compassion was well known, and I set myself a goal to talk to him about helping animals. When we met, he asked, “You know who you look like?” I said no, and he said, “Paul McCartney”. In fact, the last time we met, he asked the same question, and I responded, “Paul McCartney?” He said, “Exactly”.
He was welcoming and also agreed, to my excitement, to do his first-ever ad for PETA India to encourage the Indian government to strengthen the country’s animal welfare act. Thinking back to the shooting of the ad in Delhi conjures up more fond memories of Ravi: discussions of his cats, the time he told me how he and George Harrison went to Disneyworld in disguise in the ’70s and his laughter when a goat attempted to chew on his priceless sitar and ended up biting his daughter Anoushka’s finger! (It was a love bite.)
After the shooting of the ad, Ravi wanted to do even more, so he invited me to his home in San Diego, where he and Anoushka shot a print ad – on his front lawn, of all places. He was always eager to help, whether that meant holding a news conference to push the Supreme Court of India to review a case involving thousands of illegal slaughterhouses or speaking out about KFC’s lack of animal welfare standards. He became an honorary patron of PETA India, and just recently, he was talking with them again about urging the government of India to pass an updated animal welfare law.
It’s so sad that Ravi has left us, but PETA affiliates worldwide continue to draw inspiration from his life and will work to ensure that his efforts to help animals will live on.
Ravi, we miss you already.
Posted by Jason Baker