Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Minstrel's Journey- Part 4

By Nikumoni Hussain
Source : The Assam Tribune , Sep 2008

Many women have come to my life
“After Priyam’s departure, many other women have figured in my life. I have not kept account. I committed a mistake there. Should have kept count. Then I would have been able to give you the number of such women. What I have noticed is that women by themselves come close to me. I have composed many songs leased on those women. However, the actual women behind those popular songs are different from the women mentioned in my songs. You people may think that Bhupen Hazarika flirts with women. But it is actually not so. I love everybody — with an open heart — ‘Rongmon’ the fisherman, the poor farmer who goes out on a winter morning to tend his fields, the young Mising man playing his flute at Disangmukh, the youthful Gorkha milkmaid, brother ‘Moina’ and of course, the river Brahmaputra. I sing for my motherland Assam. I consider myself to be very fortunate to receive love and adulation of people. That’s why I sing: ‘The thousand listeners of my songs. I bow to you. You are the main jewel of this song presentation show.’”

He informed me of the reason why he had put a fullstop (.) underneath his signature and then since when and why he now puts two fullstops (..). He told me for whom did he create the song Bimurta mor nishati... For whom did he write Tomar dekhun nam Patralekha... And for whom did he sing Pahori galane Kamakshya dhamate gupone adin... and the stories hidden behind many other such immortal songs. He further told me that in case on some day I write a book based on what he narrated to me, then I must not disclose the real identity of the many women for whom he had composed those famous songs. He requested me to inform to the readers that I have given imaginary names to preserve the privacy of those characters. “Many of them are still alive and in some cases, though they themselves may not be there, their children and grand children have to be taken into consideration. Please promise me to keep my words.”

My real love interest
In spite of his so-called love affairs, at the fag end of his life, Bhupenda tells me, “to make the lady from Assam, whom I love utmost and from the very bottom of my heart, mine, we need not go through wedding rituals. In our minds, we get married everyday, every night. Be it in sleep or in dream or even when we are awake, we embrace each other... I am living because of her only. However, long I stay in Assam, we meet each other very rarely. I can’t do anything about it, for this is what is known as love. I call it a misery full of sweetness. Her sweet memories are always with me, even without our meeting. Can you tell how long we haven’t met? Do you remember?”

“Yes, five years and 13 days,” I tell him.

“With due regards and best wishes to my undisclosed lover, I promise her to keep meeting her for our entire lives, just as it was in past.”

What a strange coincidence. While we were talking about her that day, his lover entered the place with slow steps. What is her name? Who is this beautiful lady? This mysterious woman. A very fair complexion with a sharp featured but soft face, a cascading tress of long hair, a pair of deep black eyes. As if a statue created by some renowned sculptor. The owner of a light pink coloured mansion. Who likes to listen to the music of Beethovan and Mozart. Whenever she thinks of Bhupenda, she sits in the centre of her lovely house and plays violin. She tries to express her sorrow by playing the ragas — Desh, Dhaneswari, and Meghamallar on the violin. Even her joys, her laughters are mixed with the pains of her life. It is late at night. Tears are flowing from the eyes of his restless beloved lady. The outside world however never comes to see those tears. Can you guess how old would she be?

At the most thirty-five, may be forty years. No, she is much older, of ripe old age. She could create a thousand stories by her bewitching smile. She is five feet six inches tall. These days she prefers loneliness. She searches for enjoyment without company. She has realized that sometimes even loneliness also talks, expresses itself. Now who will disclose her name? Is it Sandhya or Lalita or Kanta or for that matter Urmimala? She is the sweetheart without a name. Nobody can find out with certainty her actual identity from the love-letters written by Bhupen Hazarika to his beloved. Those were penned with great dexterity. No, they were not letters actually. Instead the lyrics of many of his ageless songs, where the real name of his lovers was disguised. These letters are stored with utmost care in a big box. But with passing of time, the alphabets have faded and occasionally these give a smell — the fragrance of love!

One day Anami, let’s give her this name, opened an almirah full of old clothes. The smell of napthalene had spread out. From amongst the clothes, she picked up carefully a few diaries and handed over to me. Then she said, “On the eve of a New Year today, I have nothing else to give you as a gift. Last night, the alphabets of these diaries embraced me and requested me to hand them over to you, so that our stories are preserved secretly for posterity. It is not that I have written exclusively about myself and Bhupenda in these diaries. But they also tell the sad history of my own long life. These alphabets contain all my grief and sadness. Do preserve them with care. Whatever you eat, give them a share too. Many years ago I had asked Bhupenda whom should I request to write our story. You know what was his reply? He advised me to give the job to a lady author who too, had undergone much suffering in life. Who has experienced anguish, who’s life is a garland of sorrows and who can develop friendship with agony. One who has stood up as a real person despite lack of company and who even in her last breath will give life to our memory. Search for such an author. ‘Remember, in that novel you would be known as Subash (fragrance), my Subash,’ Bhupenda had said. There is one more thing — provided I am still alive then we will read the novel together. And in case I am no longer there, then keep the first copy of the novel in front of my photograph. After that only you should read it.”

She continued further. “Every morning, after having my bath, I stand before the Belgian mirror and wonder where can I locate that particular woman who would preserve our story.”

I welcomed and accepted the diaries with an open mind and assured her, “hence onwards your past will not sing the song of separation and sorrow, but rather of hope and happiness. Yes, it will sing a song of joy.”

Slowly Anami went back to the almirah and caressed a zori-bordered blue coloured mekhela chadar hanging on a hanger there. Exactly at that moment as if on a cue, the small tap recorder inside my hand bag started playing the very moving Bhupenda’s song Bimurta mor nishati jen mounatar sutare bua akhoni nila chadar...

Inadvertently both her eyes got moistened. It appeared as if the blue skies, too, shedded tears, the golden and silver coloured fishes in the pond in front of the house could also feel the poignancy of the moment. The gentle breeze was also conveying its sympathy, so also the tender riceplants in the fields. Sympathy was being expressed by the chirping pair of birds, so also by the leaves of the plants around the pond. Both of us were in dialogue with an unfinished poem which will grow into a dream-flower in the days yet to dawn.

[Correction: Bhupen Hazarika got separated from Priyam in 1963 and not in 1953 as was printed in last week’s episode.]