Saturday, November 26, 2011

Of Bhupen Hazarika and the sea of humanity

by Khushwant Singh , The Hindustan Times , 20 Nov , 2011

Once Bhupen Hazarika picked me up from Delhi when I was editing the Hindustan Times and flew me to his home town for his annual bash at Siliguri. On the way and over drinks in the evening he told me about his past and present life. His first marriage did not last long. His second one made him a

happy husband and father. He was known as a one-song-man: his hymn to the Ganga had made him a national celebrity.

As a matter of fact he had many more songs to his credit and was involved in nation-wide artistic activities which were acclaimed. We reached our destination late in the afternoon and spent the evening drinking together.

Next afternoon I noticed people gathering in large numbers on the road outside. The car in front had no hood that Bhupen could acknowledge greetings of his admirers.

I was put in the car following. As we proceeded, people in their thousands crammed the road and on top of their houses to greet him till we reached a vast maidan. It was a sea of humans as far as I,could see: not in thousands but well over half a million. I was alarmed as a trifling incident could have created a stampede costing many lives.

I was escorted to the dais: It was a sea of humanity, the like of which I had never seen before in my life. I sat on the dais listening to speeches, paid a two-minute tribute to Bhupen and slipped away from the rear. It was an empty town. A Muslim officer of the IAS posted as commissioner of the district had been instructed to look after me. I had my evening drink and dinner with his family. The next morning I flew back to Delhi. I thank Bhupen for familiarising me with the expression - sea of humanity.