BHU­PEN HAZARIKA

1926-2011

India Today - - GLOSSARY - Byzubeen­garg Zubeen­gar­gis­apoet,singer,com­poserand ac­tor­fro­mas­sam.

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.

HE­MANT Chawla/www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

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