Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Minstrel's Journey- Part 2

By Nikumoni Hussain
Source : The Assam Tribune , Sep 2008

Nothing great about it
“By then I was twenty and my guru was late Bishnu Rava. One day I received a letter from him asking me to meet him at the base of the Kamakhya hill. I went there and found that he was hiding in a small hut belonging to a widow. Only then I could realize that he was a fugitive. There I sat down, wrote a poem, read it, recited it and then sang. Sometime passed in this manner and then I returned home on a bicycle. I knocked on the door with some trepidation thinking who would open the door. Dad opened the front door and immediately slapped me on the face.

“I felt humiliated and straightaway went to my bed without having food. Next day, on getting a suitable opportunity, I explained to dad that I had gone out to meet my guru and not for doing anything unwanted. He heard me and simply replied, ‘So what? I had only slapped you. It wasn’t anything great.’”

The fortunate but hard up days
“No doubt my childhood was one of privation, but on many counts we were equally fortunate. The famous Ban Stage was only a short run away from our house (at Tezpur). I could after listen to melodious piano being played there. When I was in class VI, I had the good fortune of meeting men of letters like late Dandidhar Kalita. Also Jyoti Prasad and Bishnu Rava, whom I used to address as elder brother, would frequently call me to their place, allow me to listen while they were composing some unforgettable music and then asked me to do the same. They insisted on my doing it repeatedly so that I would not forget. I grew up in such an atmosphere. Not that our hard days ended shortly. Rather they continued for many years. Since I was the eldest, Mom would serve me more food compared to my brothers and sisters. But that was not acceptable to me. We used to share equally amongst us. I passed high school from Tezpur in 1940 and got admitted in Cotton College. I was only 14 then. Since I did not have a full pant and was wearing a half pant, the chowkidar at the college gate would not allow me in initially. Around that time, Dad shifted from Tezpur to Mangaldai. Second World War was going on and American soldiers roamed all around the place. So I had to go to Benares (Varanasi) to continue my studies. I felt bad about it, thinking how father would manage to send Rs. 60 every month to me when conditions back home were not good. At that time a poor person used to live near our house. While being very kind hearted, he used to be angry like a tiger in rage. He did not have enough to eat. So, while returning home in the evening with a seer of rice, which father himself had managed to buy with difficulty for our family, he would gladly share half of it with our neighbour. You know who he was? He was none other than Gopinath Bardoloi. When I think of those days, I really feel sorry for our poor dad. He had to support such a large family. My brother Amar, too, was to go out to Pune for studies. Why me and Amar only? What about our other brothers and sisters? Sudakshina’s wedding was to be arranged. It had to be a good one since she was such a lovely girl. One day, when I was at home on vacation from Benares, with lot of hesitation I informed dad that I needed Rs 260 to pay as my last examination fees. In a sorrowful voice he told me: ‘Dear son, tell me where from I will manage so much money for you? Yes, tell me.’ I replied with equal sadness: ‘Yes dad, I do understand. But...’ Amar was listening to us. He quietly went to Prabhudayal Himmatsinka, a businessman, borrowed a military truck from him for three days and asked me to earn the required sum for my fees by myself. We had a Ford car of our own also. While I did not know how to drive, Amar could. As mentioned earlier, the place was teeming with American soldiers who used to go to the cinema hall situated near the temple on top of Sukreswar ghat for seeing English movies in the second show. While some soldiers marched back to their barracks through the road in front of our house at the end of the show, the barracks for the other soldiers were located at Maligaon. We offered to drop them there regularly in our vehicle for a consideration. It worked satisfactorily and in a few days I was able to earn enough to return to Benares and pay my exam fees. See, how I managed to grow up and become Bhupen Hazarika. Will you, a present-day girl, able to face such hardships? Leave aside overcoming them, I doubt whether you can even imagine of such things.”

My sweet dear was Mamoni
“I was in intense love with a woman. Her name was Mamoni. Not your Mamoni Raisom Goswami. Now I will have to tell something about Raisom too, though she never was my lover. Otherwise, she will be angry with me. When I first heard about Mamoni Raisom, I was a lyricist and very busy. I used to compose lyrics day and night. She was very beautiful then. No, I would not use the word ‘was’ because she still is as lovely and also because she will again be very angry with me. Yes, she is still beautiful. In those days we young men used to stare at her and I was the one who used to stare most. I feel proud about her. A very good girl… a girl with an open heart. She does not care. I have visited the whole world. But nowhere have I met a person with such an open mind. Many years ago Mamoni wrote a poem on me. I will remain ever grateful to her for what she wrote about me in each line of the poem. Now please read a stanza from the poem. I am yearning to hear it.

Bhupenda — without your voice,/I cannot draw the map of my motherland./Where was this born?/Was it in mud or in nectar?/No — it is not my question./But what a voice it is./The voice which touches one like nectar./Uncountable hearts of my birth place./What a voice it is?/The voice which knows, how to enter deep inside one’s heart./But does not know the way out…

“Great, really great poetry. I feel happy and proud that such a poem has been written about me. Did somebody write a poem on you? No? Somebody will surely write. There is plenty of time. Make a copy of the poem and do send to me.

“As far as I could remember, it is a pretty long poem. Is it not? Yes, the poem consists of 63 lines. In between, Mamoni wrote lyrics for a few songs which were excellent. I was very jealous at that time. Thought it was alright as long as she concentrated on writing poem and other literary works. Writing lyrics was my forte. Why did she start writing lyrics also? She used to visit our place. So one day I advised her, ‘Mamoni, songs written by you are not as good. It will be better for you to stick to your own area in literature. So please don’t write songs.’ She probably could not get the real idea behind my advice and said, ‘Yes Bhupenda, I have realized that my songs are no good. You actually are meant for writing lyrics and composing music.’ That was a great relief to me. Mamoni’s writings are of very high standard… more than ‘Jnanpith’… as good as Mahasweta Devi’s. She is a woman whose heart is full of happiness, sorrow, love and compassion for others. The (greatest) thing about her is that she is so courageous — yes, full of courage. In my opinion she has always been right in her choosen path in life.