Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bhupen Hazarika in Sikkim – Teesta Bagchhau kina?

Source : - Rajiva Shanker Shresta ,
While the sea of humanity was pouring in joining the funeral procession of the legendary bard Bhupen Hazarika (8 Sep 1926 – 5 Nov 2011) in Guwahati on 9th November morning people to bid adieu with tearful eyes to see him for the last time perched on the roof and tree tops. Immortalised by his songs that followed his last journey along with "Bhupen Hazarika amar raho" and Vedic hymns chanted, praying for the departed soul. His mortal remains were consigned to flames on the bank of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati University campus with full state honours with 21 Guns Salute by Assam Police with doctors and forensic experts taking the foot impressions of the man for posterity.

In his tribute Governor of Sikkim B. P. Singh wrote of knowing him since his civil service days to declare Bhupen Hazarika elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly in 1967 and later as the chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi to grace two of his book launch events with his ‘Ganga Bahati Ho Kyon’ rendered. He mentioned him a versatile genius who wrote and sang not only in Assamese and Bengali, but also in Hindi and English. Creative lyricists and musicians of his stature were seldom born and his death is a great loss not just to Assamese literature and music and to his family members and friends but also to India and the music world itself.

I was looking for his Sikkim visit reported in around this time but none was found recorded there even on the net. My search led to the website “Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was mentioned as a stalwart in the annals of India's cultural heritage today - a multifaceted genius, he was a good poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and film-maker of the very highest repute. He was the only living pioneer of Assam’s film industry in the Northeast, and has been therefore, rightly hailed as the uncrowned king of North-Eastern India’s cultural world.

This too did not mention of Bhupen Hazarika’s visit to Sikkim. With the passage of time, cherished memories fading away, I thought why not share with his numerous fans like elsewhere here in Sikkim too and pen down myself whatever little left in me as a tribute to the departed – a living legend till he left us all. Treasured in my memory till this date his visit and performance here and I had the rare privilege of attending that historic occasion sometime in early 1980s.

Immediately, came to my mind why not to ask Shanti Thatal, the musician of repute to work in the State Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department for a long time till she retired in 2002. She could not help me as she was not then in the capital but later heard of the programme being an excellent one from Jerry Basi. So, I reached to Basi over phone but he too could not tell me the year exactly. He confirmed me that it was a Cultural Exchange Programme when Maharashtra artistes also participated and from Assam as well. Shanti Thatal had something else in her mind about it – an occasion related to Independence Day celebrations - could be so that coincided with.

Much before his Dil Hoom Hoom Kare made a national icon of him; he was in Sikkim way back in 1984 perhaps. This writer accompanied by his wife had attended the cultural evening in the Community Hall at Gangtok. It was for a Cultural Exchange Programme that Bhupen Hazarika was amongst us that evening with his already popular songs like Ganga, Dola, Jajaber and others. Ganga Bahati Ho Kyon came with many versions besides Assamese and Bengali. For English version his song was dedicated to the Volga in the lyric. Wikipedia says, “As a singer, Hazarika was known for his baritone voice and diction; as a lyricist, he was known for poetic compositions and parables which touched on themes ranging from romance to social and political commentary; and as a composer for his use of folk music.” His Ganga Bahati Ho Kyon thus rendered in different versions mesmerised the audience and the most brilliant to touch our hearts was his rendering it with Teesta Bagchhau Kina in our own language Nepali not foreign to him! Bhupen Hazarika hugely adored the Nepali tradition and culture and therefore Bhatgaunle cap adorned him throughout his life.

It is an interesting co-incidence here to note that his numerous fans throughout the country now demanding a Bharat Ratna for him, while in fact, the North East MPs Forum in its first summit held at Gangtok on 12-13 February 2010 had taken a unanimous resolution to recommend the name of Bhupen Hazarika for the nation’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna. It was argued that the highest civilian award for him would mean “a quantum leap in emotional integration of the people of North Eastern region with the rest of the countrymen.”

Terming him “a living legend and a multifaceted genius”, the Forum’s letter to the Prime Minister said how this great poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and film-maker is, in fact, a household name in North-East. The letter also referred to the 85-year-old singer's decades-long attempts to use songs as instruments of social changes.

It is worthwhile to share the FullText of the Letter to the Prime Minister reproduced here for the benefit of many of his fans the world over:

“Respected Pradhan Mantriji,

“We, the signatories of this letter would like to apprise you of the unanimous resolution passed by the North East Members of Parliament Forum in its First Summit held at Gangtok, Sikkim on 12-13 February 2010 to recommend the name of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, the icon of the North East Region’s varied and rich culture, to the Government of India for the nation’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna and seek your blessings.

“Admittedly, you would appreciate; the Forum has merely reiterated the wish of millions of people across the country, particularly, people of the North East Region including your good-self.

“Sir, you are aware, Bhupenda, as he is called lovingly, is a living legend and a multifaceted genius, which is amply reflected in his works as a great poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and a film-maker. He is a house-hold name in the Region and hailed as one of the illustrious composers and a brilliant mass communicator, who used songs as instrument of social change.

“Born in 1926 in Sadiya, Assam, Dr. Hazarika holds an Political Science from Benaras Hindu University and a PhD in Mass Communication from Columbia University, USA. He also received Lisle Fellowship from the Chicago University, USA.

“There is no parallel in the field of culture in the country that can combine the strengths of creativity, music composition, lyrics and voice rendition as beautifully as displayed by Dr. Hazarika. His huge popularity among the masses saw him as an elected Member of Assam Legislative Assembly during the period 1967-1972.

“In 1977, the country bestowed one of its great civilian honours on him, the Padamshree for his outstanding contribution in the field of culture and Dada Saheb Falke Award in 1992 for lifetime achievement in the field of cinema. Recognizing his rare ability in the field of fine arts particularly folk music and his excellence in academics, Dr. Hazarika was appointed as Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1999 for a term of five years. In 2001, he was honoured by the Government of India with yet another coveted civilian award the Padma Bhushan for his lifetime contribution to development of India.

“Dr. Hazarika is hailed widely for his role as India’s Cultural Ambassador for placing the folk music on the world map of folk music. Since his very childhood, he espoused the social cause and till this day he has been writing and composing masterpieces to address the ills of contemporary society. His works make him a true exponent of National Integration. He is considered the last of the great mass singers and the only great ballad singer alive in India. He commands pan- Indic appeal.

“The North East Members of Parliament Forum strongly feels that recommending a person of his caliber and standing for the highest civilian award of the country not only befit the cause but also a quantum leap in emotional integration of the people of North Eastern region with the rest of the countrymen.

“Therefore, we, on behalf of the Forum and millions of his fans spread throughout the world request you most humbly to use your good office to ensure that the name of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika is recommended for the highest civilian award of Bharat Ratna.

“With warm regards,

“Mukut Mithi, chairman
Birendra Prasad Baishya, general secretary”

Source .

Bhupen Hazarika has been honoured posthumously by the Bangladesh Government with the 'Muktijuddha Padak'. He was decorated with Asom Ratna in 2009 while in February same year theAll Assam Students Union erected a life size statue of Bhupen Hazarika on the banks of Digholi Pukhuri in Guwahati. He was given the Lata Mangeshkar Award for his overall contribution in music by the Madhya Pradesh Government while the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh in 1979 honoured him with the Gold medal from "outstanding contribution towards tribal welfare, and uplift of tribal culture through cinema and music."

Bhupen Hazarika was a true exponent of National Integration, expressed wonderfully through a variety of media as his website mentions.

May his soul rest in peace.