Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Memories of a gana ratna

By Srutimala Duara , The Sentinel

A man with that charismatic smile, who led an enigmatic jajabori life, a gana shilpi who composed lyrics and created music that have touched the heart and stirred the soul of mankind is no more. We all know man is not immortal, yet when it comes to a man like Bhupen Hazarika, we refuse to face the truth, we refuse to believe that death could take away a man like him, for we fear that if such a man is no more amidst us we would be staring in despair at a void, an abyss that would engulf us. And that is, I suppose, exactly the feeling of every person when Bhupen da lay without his soul confined in a box, and later when his mortal body was reduced to ashes.

I first came to know Bhupen da closely when I was in school and went with my mother to Calcutta for the making of an LP record of recitation – Saptarshi – and along with Dr, Bhupen Hazarika, Dr. Amarjypti Choudhury, Ishan Barua, my mother, Dr. Manjumala Das too rendered her contribution. In the studio, I watched with awe how he composed the music for the album, how the renowned musicians of the Calcutta of the yesteryears had tried to create what the great musician wanted. Bhupen da would even take the instrument from the hand of certain musicians and play out what he wanted. The sheer magnetism of the man struck me with wonder.

That was years back. Down the passage of time, I had compeered quite a few shows of Bhupen da. I remember when Assam was celebrating his 70th birthday in Bharalumukh function where many well known artists of Assam sang his compositions, and I was backstage, he said to me – “I am seventy in age but at heart I feel seventeen.” I smiled up to him and said – “Age doesn’t matter for a person like you.” Then again, when I was compeering another show of his in Rabindra Bhawan, I requested him backstage, “Bhupen da, will you sing my favourite song – bimurta mur nixati jen mounatar xutare bowa ekhani neela sador?” He said with a smile, “You have asked me to sing a very difficult song. But I will try.” After two more songs, he sang bimurta mor nixati and I sat near the wings of the stage listening to this romantic number, my eyes moist with the sheer beauty of the lyric and the music. When he came backstage, he asked me, “Was it ok? Was I able to sing well?” The utter humbleness of the way he said it touched a cord in my heart and I could still hear his voice and the smile that twinkled in his eyes that moment backstage that evening.

My husband, Romen, who I have never seen idolizing anyone, is so full of admiration when it comes to Bhupen Hazarika, and he has beautiful memories associated with this people’s musician. Those years back, those quiet times, days when television did not invade our homes, when evenings were a sweet leisure, my father-in-law, Brojendra Narayan Duara, would invite Bhupen da to his home in Shillong and very often he would come to chat, and also sit with the harmonium singing in an informal way and neighbours would come to listen.

I am sure there are many who have such memories associated with this great man. How can we say that Bhupen da has died when he is living in the hearts of all he has left behind? The legend that was Bhupen Hazarika has become just a memory today, but such a memory actually is a treasure, a treasure that will be cherished in every heart of the lovers of this gana shilpi. His soul, his music will live as the Luit flows. This was a man who was aware of the demands of his land, people, and incorporated into his music encompassing every aspect – be it the Chinese War, liberation of Bangladesh, dignity of labour with the introduction of auto-riksha, forbidden love of a tribal and a plainsman, bond of a Godapani with his Dalimi in the modern context, Assam Agitation, need for a definition of Asomiya, on Subansiri, Kameng, the list is endless...Bhupen Hazarika had his responses in his songs. It had taken hundreds of years for the birth of a man like Bhupen Hazarika on the soil of Assam, and it will take hundreds more years for such a man to walk again on this soil.