Remembering Bhupen Hazarika: Singer, Composer, Family Friend (The Wall Street Journal, India Realtime, Nov. 6, 2001, 11:06 AM IST) - By S. Mitra Kalita
Author S. Mitra Kalita with Bhupen Hazarika (center) and her elder brother Sanjib Kalita.
rowing up in the U.S., when I said I was from Assam, inevitably the most frequent response was, “Where’s that?” But every now and then, I’d hear: “Like Bhupen Hazarika?”
AThe legendary singer, composer and director from the northeastern state died Saturday at the age of 86. When my mom told me, I was flooded with memories of his music playing on Sunday mornings as she fried lucees, during long car rides to family friends’ homes, as I learned to awkwardly dance and sing at Indian functions. Suddenly, as it must have been for so many fans, especially those of us with Assamese roots, the soundtrack of my life flashed before me.
I was also lucky to have known Bhupen Uncle, as I called him, in a personal capacity. He met my father during a visit to the U.S. in the late 1970s, and as often happens in immigrant groups, they forged a friendship over my banker father’s ability to help with money transfers. Anyone who knew the singer’s background and my father’s was not surprised they became fast and close friends. Both were born in Sadiya, a rural and remote pocket of the already remote northeast. Both attended Benares Hindu University, although more than a decade apart. Both loved to read, watch foreign films and listen to music from everywhere, to discuss politics and the state of the world. Back then, both liked to drink. And so during the U.S. legs of Bhupen Hazarika’s frequent tours in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, our house, first in Long Island, later in New Jersey, became the dumping ground for his suitcases, lyric books, harmonium, plaques and gamochas.
- By Geeti Das, MN
As I was growing up in Assam, I started to fall in love with Bhupen da's music like millions of other fans and music lovers did. I always wondered how magically songs flowed endlessly from Bhupen da’s heart that has touched souls all over the world. What I am going to express now is probably not the best thought, but as a child, I sometimes feared about the reality that Bhupen da would have to leave us some day. I believe this fear was nothing unnatural, it happened because I was so much attached to his musical ingenuity. I was worried, more particularly for my mom, rather than for myself, because Maa (kind of) worshipped Bhupen da. Today, (November 5th, 2011) is a sad day in history. Bhupen da has left us for eternity.
Is it just to me or to others as well, that Bhupen da’s songs have been constantly ringing in my ears.Throughout the day today, I have been humming to some of my all-time favorites. As we were growing up (in Guwahati), there were hardly any days that Bhupen da’s songs would not be playing in our house.
- By Monoranjan Bezboruah
Every Assamese of our generation has of course known Bhupenda! I met Bhupenda first in 1974. In subsequent years, I met him a few more times. In 1993 we were fortunate to have him grace our Fourteenth Assam Convention in Washington, DC. He sang for an entire evening, a group of young artists from Bangladesh on their own came and gave him the instrumental back up. I was lucky to drive him to New Jersey, and the beauty and poignancy of his observations and comments of that few hours are still lingering in my mind! His songs and writings, the reminiscences inspire and give strength; his memory will remain like an eternal melody!