The first song I heard was right after I was born – my youngest uncle had been playing a Bhupen Hazarika song on the ‘Gramophone’ – way back in 60s. The background music of my sub-conscious mind has been tuned ever since to hundreds of songs sung by Bhupenda. He has songs for happiness, sorrow, romance, patriotism, sarcasm, nature, and what not... for almost any occasion, one can say! Now, with only a few of decades of my life remaining, it’s going to be Bhupenda all throughout!
As a rustic young lad, my concept of Bhupenda was an unachievable dream. Then in 1978 I saw him performing live for the first time at Rabindra Bhawan in Guwahati, while I was a student at Cotton College. In 1998, I met Bhupenda in person after a show at National School of Drama. When someone introduced me as the then General Secretary of Assam Association, Delhi, he enquired with such attention and earnestness, that the melodious voice still resonates in my mind.
Then came 2005! It was my 4th term as the General Secretary of Assam Association. The development of the Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan, our cultural centre’s construction was held up due to paucity of funds. We ran out of almost all our options. We had still required more than 40 lakhs to complete the civil work. One evening, Hironda (Hiron Dutta of AIR) gave me a call from the Ashok Hotel. He had organized an appointment with Bhupenda. My wife also tagged along to meet the legend. I told him about the project and explained how it would become the hub of Assamese culture in Delhi and how it is coming up as a result of people-to-people participation. Bhupenda told me in Assamese, “Hobo diya, photok koi kiba eta kori dim”. After few days we received a confirmation note from Kalpana didi for 18th October, 2005.
My President, Mr. B C Bora was confident of raising the funds. We titled the show as “‘Dil Hum Hum Kore’- A musical journey from Brahmaputra to Mississippi”. We had a grand show in Siri Fort auditorium to a packed house. Bhupenda sang for whole 2 hours, standing, even at his age. The huge Siri Fort auditorium reverberated with his deep voice. The sweet aftermath: at the last count we found we had made a surplus of Rs. 35 lacs, with which we could start the functioning of Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan.
I spent three days very closely with Bhupenda, and gained an insight into his persona. Once he told me how he got about writing ‘Xhitore xemeka raati…’ The tale goes thus: once when he had been to Darrang College at Tezpur, due to the students’ strike, he had been put up inside a classroom. The windowpanes had been broken and a chilly wind was blowing through. Bhupenda couldn’t sleep. Shivering in the cold wind, he had taken out his pen and paper and had then started composing the legendary song…
About Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla (RJPA) Bhupenda said. “Jyoti kokaidew was very stylish. He had a huge palatial house. On the backyard, he used to spend time under a rainbow umbrella with a table and chair beneath it. On one summer afternoon, when he was having some brownish drink, he called Bhupenda and asked him to taste it. Bhupenda found it bitter and Rupkonwar said ‘ei tu beer buli koi- mod nohoi dei, bouwerok nokobi akow’. RJPA used to tease Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha. He was a giant man and had a big thumb… ‘ee tabla phutabo….’”
Now that age has at last caught up with Bhupenda, my last wish for him is to bring him for 2-3 days to Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan and do the last ‘adda and gup-shup’, before the doyen sets in the horizon….
-Manoj Kumar Das, Delhi