Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Minstrel's Journey- Part 3

By Nikumoni Hussain
Source : The Assam Tribune , Sep 2008

YOU SEE, in one’s life while there is joy, there is sorrow as well. While there is union through a marriage. There is separation too, because of either incompatibility or due to death. Mamoni has gone through all these very naturally and has also analyzed the causes that bring unhappiness to a woman. One day a number of reporters, belonging to several newspapers, came to my house. I enquired the reason for their visit. Their reply was, “Bhupenda, you always claim that there was no affair between you and Mamoni Raisom. We don’t believe it. We strongly feel that there was something.”

I interjected, “Is it so? Then it would be better if you ask Mamoni about it.”

“We are just coming from her place only.”

“What did she tell you then?”

“No, there was no affair between Bhupenda and me,” Mamoni baideu informed us. “I like Bhupenda very much. One cannot imagine about Assamese culture without his contribution, particularly his music. But there was no love affair between us.”

“So what will you write now? Depict a relationship simply out of your imagination? Had I and Mamoni got married, we would perhaps have been quarrelling all the time. Do you know why I say so? Mamoni gets up early in the morning and I get up by late afternoon only. She eats boiled food, I like grilled fish. Her job is to read and write and mine is to sing songs. Mamoni drinks a single peg (she does not take any more) and I drink... (nowadays I have cut down to a small quantity). May God grant her a long enjoyable life. This is my wish.”

See, what was I telling you for so long. I was to tell you about my Mamoni, my sweetheart, I delivered a lecture on your Mamoni Raisom instead. No one amongst you knows my Mamoni. She is Mamoni of long past. She was my love interest for a very long time. Then I went to USA for earning my PhD degree. That was the time when I lost my Mamoni. She became someone else’s wife. That is like another novel. OK, I will keep on narrating to you. While in America I met a young Gujarati girl. It was snowing heavily that day. I had put on an overcoat and was hurrying on the street, when I stumbled and fell down. I was bleeding profusely and lost sense. When I returned to my senses, I found myself at the Roosevelt Hospital. Priyambada Patel had come to the hospital to enquire about my injury. It was because of her nursing and the care she took that I could recover quickly. You know, when you nurse somebody with all sincerity, it gradually develops into love. It is very natural. If you want to fall in love, then nurse him with all the care. It is sure to work. One day she presented me with a colourful bouquet at the hospital and our love affair started from that day.

Just like in a Hindi movie I held her hand and sang a song – a love song. The affair was sealed. Priyam was from a very rich family. Her father was MM Patel, nephew of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. She had grown up in Kampala, Uganda. I got fully recovered after some time. Most of the evenings we used to go out together. We used to visit an ashram frequently. It was very lovely. We would sit there and talk for hours. She picked up my language — Assamese — surprisingly fast. Then one day she informed me that she had come to America for four years for studying and now her father has called her back. I advised her to go back in that case. But, instead she said: “Why should I go back? No, I’ll not return.”

“Oh! You only informed me that you have been called back and now you say that you are not returning. I don’t get you.”

“Oh! You are such a simpleton. Have not understood anything as yet?”

“No, I will go back home together with you. But that will be only after we get married.”

I was completely taken aback. “Did you say marriage? I marry you?” I explained to her, “I am from a very poor family. In fact, so poor that you simply cannot imagine. In order to marry in such circumstances, one needs courage and unfortunately, I lack that. On top of that, my father always carries a gun. No. I cannot marry you.” But she was stubborn and would not give up. At last, I had to agree: “OK, I will marry you. But we will not stay in America and go back to my native place, Assam and earn my living there.” You see, she used to love me above everything. She comes back to my mind quite often.

Blessing the bride and the groom

Our wedding was organized there itself by fellow Indians. Someone played Bismillah Khan’s shehnai on a taperecorder. While other girls decorated the floor with alpana, Gujarati girls danced the ‘Garba’. A Brahmin teacher recited the Vedic mantras and our wedding was solemnized. We then got ourselves registered as husband and wife in a city court. While signing, I felt almost choked. As if somebody was telling me, ‘Eldest son, have you thought about everything before taking this step?’ It was something which neither Priyam’s father or my parents wanted. Some time after that we were blessed with a son. Our only child. We christened him as ‘Tez’ (blood). Those were really so lovely days. Priyam helped me in all sorts of work. Particularly, in writing scripts. She really worked hard for my sake.

Now another story
Then one day Priyam left me for good. My world came to a standstill. All of a sudden I felt so lonely. In order to forget those anguished days, I dwelled deeper and deeper into the world of art and culture.

According to you, what was the actual reason of Priyam leaving you?

That is another story. My life is full of stories. The main reason of her leaving me was our monetary shortages. Terrible shortages.

That day he narrated to me the extreme hardships faced by Priyam because of his meagre income. Those were stories full of grief and sufferings.

The second reason was because of the hurt she got from my first love. That was one incident! Once Priyam happened to meet her by chance. Priyam brought her to me. Gradually they developed a deep friendship. When I noticed this, I wondered — are they really such good friends. I doubted whether it would be good for either of them. Then one day, after seeing off her friend at the airport, she returned home and started crying. I enquired about the reason of her crying. She cried even more and replied that her friend, my earlier love has told her that she loved you much more than she (Priyam) ever did. Then was there any place for her in my life? I think that Priyam was hurt very deeply by what was told to her by my first lover Mamoni. She started talking less and less to me and remained depressed. I also thought if it was right for me to utilize such a virtuous and talented person like Priyam for my domestic purposes only. At that time she was getting calls from Indian Foreign Service for joining. She was unable to go because of housework. One day I told her that it would be better for her to leave and join the service. We took leave of each other without any bitterness, rather with much tenderness. We were married in 1950 and got separated in 1953. This is the sad story of my married life. From facing economic hardships, our lives had entered the feeling of hurtness. So, probably it was alright that way. Now everything goes on as usual. Priyam lives abroad and I meet her whenever I go there. She also visits me when she comes to India. Even today, in the telephone directory her name appears as — Hazarika Priyambada Patel. Though we are free today to lead our own lives, she remains my intimate friend. Suppose you ask to name my best friend, my reply would be Priyam, my Priyam. She would always remain mine.