Bhupen Hazarika: As I Knew Him – Kalpana Lajmi's memoir gives a glimpse of the person behind the legend
Editor’s be aware: This excerpt was initially printed on 11 September 2018. It’s being republished to mark Kalpana Lajmi’s death on 23 September. Lajmi, 64, had been battling a year-long kidney ailment.
Filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi — who directed critically acclaimed movies like Ek Pal, Rudaali and Darmiyaan — met Bhupen Hazarika when she was solely seventeen. He was forty-five. She was with Hazarika when he breathed his final, on the age of eighty-five. It was by all accounts a tumultuous relationship that defied conference. Kalpana devoted her life to managing his profession and placing collectively his huge physique of labor for a museum in his identify.
Instructed by the lens of Lajmi, a free-flowing memoir, Bhupen Hazarika: As I Knew Him is the story of a charismatic man who used his artwork as an instrument for social change, and a girl, a fierce feminist, who has by no means cared a lot about societal norms, and but who stood by him regardless of his mercurial methods, unreasonable tantrums and his unwillingness to acknowledge her as a companion. Lajmi’s no-holds-barred narrative gives a glimpse of the person behind the legend.
Bhupen Hazarika: As I Knew Him is printed by HarperCollins in India. The next is an excerpt from the foreword of the guide.
I used to be seventeen, he was forty-five. My eyes sparkled with love at first sight and I noticed its reflection in his eyes simply when the sunshine of his life was about to be extinguished – forty years later.
He all the time stated that each of us ought to have a good time our love story as a result of it was a particular, distinctive love that was undefined and would stay so given the conservative parameters and assemble of society round us. Our lives, from youth to previous age, was a steady journey of mutual ardour and love. We stepped into varied chapters of our lives, sliding out and in of relationships with women and men, making recollections alongside the best way. We cherished a few of them however there have been some we wished we may neglect however couldn’t.
Bhupen Hazarika was born in a decrease middle-class household in Assam, the eldest of ten siblings. Bhupen had narrated a really fascinating anecdote to me as soon as. One winter whereas he was having a shower, his mom was in labour along with her tenth little one and his father shouted, ‘Bhupen, what shall I identify this child boy?’ Bhupen, although fearful of his father, replied, ‘Deota, name him full cease!’ Until his dying day he taken care of all of them, educated them, received them work and jobs, organized for his or her marriages, and continued to do the identical with the second technology as nicely. All this should have taken an enormous toll on his psyche.
Maybe my entry in his life instilled peace, concord and happiness in his persona and he turned a snug householder with me. I used to be completely unaware of the depth of friction and complexities that enveloped the Hazarika family. We by no means mentioned it and maybe all of the relationships that disintegrated in entrance of his eyes, the lack of his dad and mom, sibling rivalry and jealousy, his wrecked marriage, disillusionment along with his solely son made him settle for me and look upon me, I really feel, with the love of a young, involved and caring father.
He accomplished his MA in political science from Banaras Hindu College (BHU) and went on to do his PhD in mass communication from the Ivy League Faculty of Columbia College in New York. He may have continued to stay within the USA. However he selected to not. He returned to embrace poverty and attend his true calling, that of a avenue singer, a ‘fakir’ as he referred to as himself. Somebody who dreamt, felt and breathed freedom and took it upon himself to unfold that concept of freedom to all the world.
I used to be a protected seventeen-year-old belonging to an upper-class background, from a celebrated film-industry background. But, I had a childhood filled with agony and ache, as a result of my father, who I liked, who was an incorrigible alcoholic. So, was is it that I jumped from the frying pan into the fireplace? Is it as a result of Bhupen was my father’s age that I subconsciously received interested in him? Is it as a result of I contributed to Bhupen’s reinvention and weaned him away from self-destruction and alcoholism that I felt redeemed? As a result of what I had not been capable of do for my father, I managed to do within the case of Bhupen?
I used to be harmless and starry eyed from the innumerable Mills & Boon romance novels I had been studying at that age. After I met the forty-five-year-old Bhupen, I immediately considered the ‘Dhumuha’, which, in Assamese, means a brief fiery tempestuous storm that swirls throughout the riverine civilization bordering the Brahmaputra. Bhupen epitomized that storm. The Dhumuha is everlasting and comes yr after yr to comb every thing and everybody away in its wake. Bhupen’s character at forty-five was just like the Dhumuha: charismatic, wild, passionate, proficient, with an unmatched mind and but which, just like the whirlwind, touched, liked, sympathized and empathized with, and uplifted stones, mud and humanity, particularly in his area, the north-east, to combine them right into a brotherhood with India. I used to be partially conscious of his background. However I fell in love like all younger woman would with the crease of his smile, the crinkle of his eyes, the silvery heat of his laughter, his obvious gentleness and his all-encompassing generosity.
I understood the which means of the phrase ‘Dhumuha’ solely after I noticed in my thoughts’s eye the wild, lumbering, darkish ardour that enveloped Bhupen. I noticed him strolling, speaking, singing, speaking, laughing and I whispered to the wind, ‘O, Dhumuha, you might be my Bhupen, charismatic, wild, raging ardour, prodigious expertise, gigantic mind.’ He refused to be contained inside any boundaries of relationships, artistry, guidelines and rules.
‘Moy jetiya ei jiyonor maya eri ghusi jaam’ stuffed all the riverscape in Bhupen’s richly timbered sonorous voice. The person and the parable, for his greatness had already transformed him right into a delusion. His brooding stunning brown eyes mirrored the agonizing depth of the masculine Brahmaputra. Right here was the scion from the fisherman’s dynasty, who carried his love for his riverine civilization and unfold it to all the world.
At forty-five, coming from a distinct technology and background, Bhupen Hazarika was bewildered and couldn’t comprehend this show of affection and keenness from a lady virtually three many years youthful. She was nowhere his perfect mate. She didn’t know his language, his poverty, his ache, his anguish and musical angst. She didn’t know what humiliating oppression he had been by with society in Assam for being the voice of the oppressed, a voice that railed in opposition to the exploitative institution and the tyrannical Brahmanical caste system. I didn’t know the place Guwahati was, and once I requested him at some point, his manner modified, and he sternly replied, ‘Don’t behave like an ignorant, smug Xavierite Brahmin.’ I had accomplished my training in St. Xavier’s Faculty, Mumbai, and I got here from the exalted background of the Saraswat Brahmin neighborhood originating from the plush valley of Kashmir.
Why do I wish to share my love with all the world? My love story with Bhupen Hazarika didn’t observe a standard sample – and that’s the reason it must be advised. Forty years of an eventful private tumultuous journey with Bhupen, marked by vital socio cultural and political occasions that deeply impacted our personalities, are what I wish to speak about. Our nation’s affect on Bhupen and his creative conscience and, in flip, Bhupen’s full devotion to his artwork and upliftment of the underprivileged and plea for regional recognition went hand in hand. I slowly realized I used to be all the time in love with Bhupen and Bhupen was all the time in love with the nation. I used to be all the time in love along with his creative genius and he was all the time in love along with his native soil. I used to be all the time in love along with his innocence and childlike high quality whereas he was until his final breath torn with anguish, angst and inexplicable ache for the situation of his fellow beings, not solely in japanese India however in India as an entire and in Bangladesh.
Within the preliminary days of our relationship, Bhupen was a far cry from my world of Enid Blyton and Mills and Boons and was under no circumstances the fairy-tale prince that I used to dream about. His poverty, his frustration at not being accepted had overshadowed his imaginative and prescient, information, knowledge and creativity. He would reminisce to me years later that had he been born within the northern or the western areas of India, he would have had higher acceptance as an artist for he may have penetrated each city and rural society by Hindi. Realizing solely Assamese and Bengali restricted his artistic expression. He advised me he was formidable but shy, tremendously self-confident but surprisingly hesitant about pushing his method by, reluctant to do what it takes to be a part of the rat race. I used to be too younger then to know his agony. Being deserted by his spouse after twelve years of marriage added to the chaos and battle in his life. She did permit his solely son entry to him, stating cruelly that Bhupen’s shadow would destroy the kid. This left him completely damaged as a person and took away all his shallowness. Bhupen took to consuming and have become an alcoholic.
I missed these failings of his character partly because of my innocence and partly because of my obsessive unexplained love for him. I used to be eternally grateful for the truth that he accepted me the best way I used to be: obese, loud, blunt and frank, sincere but impatient and a stickler for perfection. In his personal introverted but protecting method, he gave me my house, my mental and monetary freedom and he, in flip, slipped into being a householder, a job that he began to take pleasure in whilst his life got here to an finish. The ‘jajabor’, the wanderer, had come to relaxation.
Deeply entrenched as he was within the orthodox and standard social system of Bengal on the time, Bhupen was most likely hesitant to disclose the precise nature of our relationship in public to start with. I used to be, nonetheless, not underneath any affect and was unconventional in my pondering. I rebelled in opposition to his silence and accused him of being ‘weak’ and a ‘hypocrite’, however he stubbornly launched me to individuals both as his ‘enterprise supervisor’ or his ‘secretary’. By now I used to be twenty-one, energetic, effervescent with creativity and raring to go. I used to be terribly confused about these conflicting values in Bhupen, not as an artist however as a person. However I used to be devoted and proud sufficient to proceed this unconventional relationship with him. It was not as if we have been discovering one another as typically occurs in love. Relatively, we have been reinventing one another, in a method that helped him overcome his alcoholism and memy infantile confusion, thus infusing our relationship with hope, belief and positivity.
Over time, Bengal society passionately embraced this new ‘guru’ and his expertise and mind and accepted us socially like some other couple. No questions have been requested, and no fingers raised. I started to be regarded upon positively for having actually lifted from the gutters this anguished, annoyed and rejected poet, underestimated and misunderstood by the regressive social pondering in his homeland Assam. It’s no shock that Bhupen Hazarika turned a hero in Bengal and the world over. His good writing, singing and music endeared him to an intellectually hungry Bengal. The state lastly accepted his pathbreaking ‘jibon mukhi gaan’, which have a good time humanity, integration and equality. His profession took flight and he turned a world legend and a global cultural icon. But the love, romance, ardour, spirituality, which permeate all his work emanated solely from his love for the north-east.
Wanting again, I ponder how I ever gathered the braveness to merge Bhupen’s world with mine, develop into an integral a part of his life, dealing with his anguish and my ever-growing questioning thoughts. I discovered Assamese and Bengali. I underwent great cultural shock over the primary fifteen years. I additionally needed to cope with his horrible temper swings, horrifying bursts of mood and heavy consuming bouts, quivering within the shadows, not understanding what the longer term had in retailer for me. I educated myself to develop into a really environment friendly administrator. Over these fifteen years,I turned a shadow underneath this rising banyan tree whose stature stuffed me with delight however left me with out even a hint of self-confidence. It was solely in 1986 that we made our first internationally and nationally awarded and acclaimed Hindi function movie Ek Pal. This cemented our relationship as equals, professionally, creatively and personally.
I nonetheless bear in mind a sunny Kolkata afternoon, when he checked out me in an odd method and stated that as a sixteen-year-old he had met an astrologer who had advised him that his life would take a flip for the higher and he would by no means look again after a sure lady who was neither his mom, sister, daughter or spouse entered his life. It dawned on me what Bhupen was attempting to inform me: that lady was me. Mockingly sufficient I used to be to play all these roles in Bhupen’s life: that of his mom, sister, daughter and spouse. Bhupen all the time stated permanence is transient, permanence is change. Each of us believed this and reinvented our creativity and relationship with a purpose to embrace the change higher.
Because the situation in his homeland Assam regressed, Bengal and Bombay within the 1980s and ’90s supplied us freedom, peace and liberation. As we got here to phrases with the world round us, Bhupen’s rising character, his immense contribution, his stupendous success and the evolving nature of our relationship have been pitted in opposition to the norms of the middle-class society of Assam. By now we had spent thirty-five years collectively. The liberated and emancipated society of Bengal, Bombay and the world, which Bhupen had embraced for greater than fifty years, had taken his profession to unprecedented heights, and but, fifty years later, when civilization and society have been purported to have progressed, Bhupen Hazarika and Kalpana Lajmi have been placed on the cross by his very homeland, Assam.
By now Bhupen was eighty and couldn’t battle again. He was previous, drained and ailing however he had the psychological energy inside him now, which he had lacked in his youth. He didn’t have the bodily energy, although, to face by me in opposition to this social stigma that reeked of lies and slander. The poet Bhupen all the time lived in a utopian world of the Assam of his childhood and youth. His weak spot was that he was a dreamer, that he couldn’t face actuality. All his life he escaped into his flights of fancy, of an Assam and India and a world that was good. This was his undoing as a person and but his essence as a poet. I too had stopped dwelling my life to please the world round me. I saved myself busy in loving Bhupen and taking care of him until his demise, permitting him to bask in his desires and fond recollections of his native soil. That was most likely essentially the most tough interval of my life. The loneliness that engulfed me, my depleting funds, the creativity that eluded me – it was as if my life breath was slowly being sucked out.
The day was 5 November 2011, time 4.13 p.m. The red-letter day of my life. It was on today that Bhupen left his bodily physique. Future had formed my life into two distinct halves: the primary with Bhupen prior to five November 2011 and the second with out Bhupen after.
It’s stated that the dying can not take depart of this bodily world due to maya, love and the emotional dependence on their family members. He had stated to me, ‘Ma, what is going to occur to you after I’m gone?’ I had not understood the depth, which means and implication of that query. I had impatiently brushed him off and stated, ‘You aren’t going anyplace. You’re getting nicely.’ And continued, ‘I’m utterly able to taking care of myself, okay?’ Not realizing the vacancy, hopelessness, grief he has abandoning in me along with his departure. I felt the cycle of my life with him had come full circle. At that second he was seventeen and I a drained forty-five. For eight years I had not left his aspect for a second, day and evening, metropolis after metropolis, hospital to hospital. I nursed him in individual, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And Bhupen, with all his stubbornness, emotional chaos and battle, surrendered to me utterly.
It was solely on that unusual Saturday afternoon that I did one thing I by no means did in all these years. I left his aspect and went out to have a cup of espresso and was pulled again by his docs who acknowledged, ‘We’re shedding him.’ However he was not prepared to go away. I witnessed the battle and upheaval that happened between the soul and physique and I stated aloud in Assamese, ‘Jaa Bhupsu jaa. Go away. Collect your energy and depart. Don’t be held again by my love. I launch you. Go to Amma and God.’ And all of the sudden he was gone.
Then adopted the awakening of the world to the legend of Bhupen Hazarika. He was understood, accepted, hailed and celebrated everywhere in the world because the maestro, the legend, the worldwide icon, the mahatma, the saint. It was then, as I wept in entrance of my cinematic guru Mahesh Bhatt, that the standing of this unusual dawned on me. I used to be dwelling in sin with God.
At the same time as his household vented its ire at me, calling me a gold-digger and opportunist, and accusing me of turning him away from his household and his homeland Assam, the world exterior congratulated me for having acknowledged Bhupen’s imaginative and prescient for the world and for serving to him notice this imaginative and prescient. What a farewell it was – a three-day mourning with 5 crore mourners paying homage. Younger and previous, wealthy and poor, from all strata of society from neighbouring Bangladesh, Bengal, whole Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Bhutan, Sikkim, Delhi and Mumbai. They got here by highway, air, rail, in bullock carts and by foot and fulfilled Bhupen’s dream of integration after they all chanted ‘Zindabad Bhupen-da’ because the flames consumed his mortal stays. Even political events just like the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP), the Communist Occasion of India (Marxist), the Trinamool Congress, the Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), United Liberation Entrance of Assam (ULFA), Surrendered United Liberation Entrance of Assam (SULFA) and quite a few others, rising above political affiliations, stood collectively and gave him a twenty-one-gun salute, a grand farewell certainly!
I had all the time been rejected and humiliated by his household and his society. What place did I’ve with them now? I made a decision to not accompany him for the funeral in Assam. However his phrases rang in my ears. He had elicited a promise from me that wherever he expired I’d take him again to Guwahati and cremate him by his beloved Brahmaputra. My mom who had by no means accredited of my live-in relationship with Bhupen was the one to insist that I shouldn’t desert him now, that I needed to neglect all my private ache and provides him the dignified farewell that he deserved, thus closing this chapter of my life with fortitude.
Nearly instantly after his passing away, the winds modified. The world welcomed and acknowledged me lastly, bestowing upon me the honour, respect and delight as Bhupen’s companion. Someplace down the ages, I too can be remembered, one thing that I had not requested for, however was given as a result of Bhupen gave me in loss of life what he couldn’t in life: his acceptance and the standing of his spouse and consort.
All photos courtesy: HarperCollins
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