So music maestro Bhupen Hazarika has bequeathed all his property to Kalpana Lajmi. I read the report with great interest.
I don’t know much about Hazarika’s family life; his career was at its peak in the pre-internet, pre-tabloid days. But I know he and Lajmi have both been living together for more than three decades now, despite a whopping age gap of 28 years. His ex-wife, Priyamvada (a Gujarati woman of Ugandan origin he met while in Columbia University) is settled in Canada and son Tej, a writer, is an American citizen. I don’t know how they took the news, but going by the interviews of Hazarika and Lajmi, they all seem to be on good terms.
Lajmi was 17 when she fell in love with him and ever since she has stuck with him through thick and thin, despite his mercurial temper and drinking problem, and is credited with revamping his career and nursing him in his old age. She seems to be incredibly in love with “Bhupso”, as she fondly calls him, despite folks on both sides not having accepted their relationship.
Here in Dubai I don’t get to read much about him. Last time when I had visited Assam, I was told that he had collapsed on stage during a function. Well, he is 84. What can you expect?
Bollywood buffs know him for the music of Aarop, Rudali, Ek Pal, Saaz and Gajagamini. But, like me, if you grew up in Assam (or Bengal) in the early 80s you’d know what a prodigious talent he is. In his velvety, crisp, baritone voice he has sung about love, personal tragedies, integration and social justice. At times his songs are like parables -- the famous O Ganga behti ho kyon? was addressed to Indira Gandhi. His style varies effortlessly from folksy to tribal to modern.
And that’s just his music. He is a poet, actor, journalist, author and film-maker of the first order. Take just one segment of his career and you can compare it with the best in the field.
He is a PhD in Mass Communication from Columbia University and a recipient of the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University. It was during his stay in the US, he met Paul Robson, whose influence proved to be everlasting.
Just listen to some of his Assamese or Bengali songs on YouTube and you will be hooked. The saying that music transcends language was invented for Bhupen Hazarika.
I fervently wish he is awarded Bharat Ratna, and while he is still alive.