Its a day of extreme sadness. Bhupen da has left us forever.
Many know Dr. Bhupen Hazarika as the singer-musician of Assam; some know him as the multifaceted genius, who was a good poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and a film-maker; few know him as India's first doctorate in film studies and music.
I however know him as someone, who loved his ethnic identity, his Assam and her people. I know him as the pragmatic statesman who wrote for people, of their emotions, about their problems, and for their future.
Loving one's identity is not corollary to hating everyone elses'.
He sang in Bengali. He sang for Bangladesh. He sang in Hindi. He even sang in English. He became closely associated with Paul Robeson between 1949 and 1955 in USA, where he was awarded a Gold Medallion in New York as the best interpreter of India's folk songs by Eleanor Roosevelt.
|6th November 2011|
Today Dr. Bhupen Hazarika did his last trip to his Nizarapar house in Guwahati. The whole Guwahati was on the streets to walk with him for the last time. I have not seen a bigger reception. I have not seen a bigger mass-emotion. I have not seen so many people crying for a public figure.
Why is a genius in some art forms so respected, so adored and could gather such a massive public response? Jagjit Singh in today's times and Mohd. Rafi of yesterday didn't generate such public emotion. They were better singers and surely had a larger fan base.
Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was a poet and a singer who knew how to communicate through his songs. He was a social activist who knew the power of words if written and sung well. He could do both very well.
This talent of him was further strengthened because of his genuine love for his motherland - Assam. He understood Assamese people and had knowledge about its myriad cultures and traditions. He had written and sung songs on every social, economic and political issue of his times, that are relevant even today.
It was in 1970 when he thought of inculcating 'dignity of labour' among the common man of the Assamese community. He with his brother Jayanta Hazarika started the Rickshaw Chalao musical drive to convince the common man that even pulling rickshaw is a dignified job. There is nothing to be ashamed of. He envisioned that if there is dignity of labour, a community can do quicker economic progress and would have lesser unemployment.
His love for Assam took him to every corner of Assam. He related to people of every tribe and community. He had written and sung songs about every place (almost) that he had visited. His songs had meanings that penetrated public emotions of each of these places that he visited.
Dr. Bhupen Hazarika had his own share of personal miseries. He perhaps had a larger share than most of us. But those bad times couldn't take him away from his focus, from his love for the Assamese community, from the love of music.
He was a true Indian and a responsible world citizen. However, from all his work, I see that he was an Assamese first. It is this love that he had for his ethnic identity that's making me feel a great loss.
It's an era that has ended. Assam has lost one of its greatest son ever.