I can never forget the first time I met Bhupen Hazarika. He asked me, “Are you Punjabi?” because my surname happens to be Garg, uncommon in Assam.“i am as Kharkhowa (a colloquial term for Assamese) as it gets,” I answered. He guffawed with delight; a generation gap bridged in an instant. I met him later in the mid-1990s, a time of immense turmoil in upper Assam, when the first ethnic clash between the Assamese and the Bihari youths took place. We camped for four days in Dibrugarh pacifying people on both sides. Bhupen Mama (Assamese for uncle) was Assam’s tallest cultural icon who was decorated with the country’s highest honours and awards. But he never lost his humility. One could hardly believe that he was a scholar extraordinaire: he was one of the first Assamese to complete doctoral studies in the US, a PHD in Mass Communication from Columbia University in the 1950s. Yet, his music and his lyrics had a rare folksy earthiness to them. He was a magician, a selfproclaimed jajabor (wanderer) who was a master of everything he dabbled in—journalism, poetry, singing, composing, film direction, all rolled into one. Perhaps I liked the poet in him most. I read somewhere about the late M.F. Husain having said that Mama could paint through his songs. Husain couldn’t be more right. His songs have the power to drive people into raptures. I met Mama last at the Mumbai airport early this year. He was wheelchair-bound and clearly in poor health but hadn’t lost his sense of humour. He told me,“don’t work much, relax when you can. Else you’d be like me.” Those were his last words to me. Bhupen Mama is no more but his legacy will live on. It’s up to our generation of artists to carry forward his rich bequest.