My parents say I was born on 15th of May 1986 . Having no memories of the day in question or for that matter any day in the eighties, I can do little but trust the people who are the reason I have grown up to be a person who can, among other things, put thoughts onto paper or into network, the choice of words being left to fight between the literary and figurative thoughts of our brain. Inexplicably, in some ways the clarity and shape of my very first memories of human life have been far consigned to some remote corner of my brain from where they refuse to create any decipherable sights and sounds. For a child born in the eighties, my most distant memories are from the nineties that followed the eighties. Maybe this is the connection that I share with all the children born on that hot day. A connection not as mystical as the connection between Salim Sinai and the rest of midnight’s children but a connection, nonetheless, that has no traceable outlines or any touchable edges.
Among other things, I did not have any say in was the name,the place and mother-tongue I was to be identified with for my life. For some, still mysterious and unknown reason, there was a sense of pride in all the three aspects of my life that was thrust-ed down my metaphorical throat. Now that my emotional and intellectual self was moulded .beyond repair by the time I started storing my first longterm memories , it was all but natural for me to create the portrait of the people I shall idolize for my life. An Assamese as I was, there was no dearth of Assamese heroes but from Sankardev to Lachit to Bishnu Rabha, they chose to exist only in the pages of history. No living person seemed great enough to compete with the long dead heroes for a piece of my awe. However there was an exception, the solitary link between my motherland and the world. No mosaic of India seemed complete without the presence of this black cap adorned old man. The fact that he answered to same surname as mine did no harm to the stability of the tall monument of this man who had started rising in my mind.
In my earliest remembered days, I used to jump up and down when the sole Assamese man could be seen on television sets, I used to jump up and down saying that koka (Assamese for grandfather) was on TV. In those days, I didn’t know what Filmfare or Oscars were but I knew what Dada Saheb Phalke and Asia-Pacific International Music prize was. By class five, I had shifted to Don Bosco Dibrugarh and I participated in my first singing competition. Due to lack of any formal training and dedication, me forays into the singing lane was limited but I did win my fair share of prizes. Needless to say, the great mans song got me quite a few of those prizes. For a ten-year old, appearing on local television is a big deal, my earlier exploits in songs got me to the team that sang in the school on formal occasions and there I was on TV, humming another of his song. That memory is still strong that even today I remember the tune of the song and the first few lines. A song that I have not hard for the last fifteen years through my physical ears.
The closest I came to Dr. Hazarika in person was on a flight to my home from Calcutta. He seemed happy to know that even I was a Hazarika and gave nice message on my boarding pass. Unfortunately as fate would have it, he wrote it on the place of the security seal and the only proof of our solitary existence was snatched away by security. It was also in my college days that I used Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s creation for sinister pleasures. We had an annual NCC camp which was very physically demanding, the air force station where we had our camp was headed by an Assamese, so there was a need of and Assamese song on the cultural show. I jumped into the opportunity to laze through the day and rendered one of his creation. All day was spent sleeping while my friends were marching.
All good things come to an end. The great man was a human after all and had to breathe his last. On the day he died, I was relieved. Relieved – this is not a typo – I was pained to see the greatest musician and lyricist of Assam being unable to sing his own songs for last few years. His death had rolled back the years and he was restored to his prime in my memories. The person who towered over all of Assam was no longer present in the body that once represented everything that was great about Assam. But today I feel a sense of pride and sadness and emptiness. Pride to see how his death united all of Assam drowning all divisions of caste,creed or religion. Sadness to know that never again a tune that can outlast a generation be created in Assam,to know that now we have a count on the number of great odes to Brahmaputra. Emptiness to know that next time a portrait of India is painted, not only the tile that was common for my entire life would be absent but probably there wont be any tile for my motherland and mother-tongue.