Guest post by WALED AADNAN
“Amar naam Chatterjee!” My name is Chatterjee! sounds like a proclamation from a fiery leader of the masses at a public rally, but it came from a rickshaw wallah plying his trade in the dusty bylanes of North Calcutta and addressed to no one in particular.
As I sat on his rickshaw, the frail old man launched into an indignant tirade against the ruling political party, whom he branded as a group of turncoats, insisting vehemently and repeatedly to nothing but the evening breeze that he had always been a Congressman.
Yes, he defended, petrol prices have been rising, but surely the bosses in Delhi would admit to that! What is the point of protesting about that in an insignificant meeting of rickshaw wallahs’ union? His tone of uncompromising understanding of world affairs drew me to listen to him, rather than plug in my earphones and switch off the world. Continue reading A Rickshaw Ride in Kolkata: Waled Aadnan
Guest post by BIKRAM BORA
The unprecedented number of mourners crowding the otherwise sleepy streets of Guwahati at night following the demise of the maestro, proves testimony to his genius. In his life, there was no dearth of followers, some logical, some blind; while in his death, grief engulfs both the sections. What could be the reasons for Hazarika’s powerful grip over people’s emotions? It can’t be just his musical dexterity; it’s more the aura surrounding him, emanating from his multi-dimensional persona and life-span.
Continue reading Bhupen Hazarika – The Sub-nationalist Imagination of a Universalist: Bikram Bora
Guest post by MAYUR CHETIA and NAYANJYOTI
Mourning people from across Assam assemble in miles and miles of roads leading up to Bhupen Hazarika’s funeral. He’s a restless jajabor/wanderer no more. Paeans after paeans are being sung now after the ‘great cultural hero’, the ‘greatest Assamese’, the believer in ‘the power of the nation’ (the ‘nation’ being Akhand Bharat or Brihottor Axom, depending on whichever variety of nationalists sing). Bhupenda is dead. Assam is in despair.
Continue reading Taking the Jajabor’s Journey Forward – The troubled legacy of Bhupen Hazarika: Mayur Chetia and Nayanjyoti
Bhupen Hazarika was cremated this morning in Guwahati, at a ceremony on the banks of the Brahmaputra that was attended by an estimated 100,000 people present to pay their tribute to the legendary singer.
His politics did go somewhat awry in his last years, but I don’t want to think about that right now. Here is Bhupen Hazarika, with the original Assamese of the song many of us have heard him sing in Hindi, Ganga behti ho kyon. While studying at Columbia University, New York, Hazarika met Paul Robeson, whose song Ol’ Man River moved him so much that he rendered it into his mother tongue Assamese as bistirno parore. In Ol’ Man River, Robeson had adapted to the context of slavery, an American folk song of the Mississipi region. It is believed that this song in turn was an American version of a popular Russian song, Song of the Volga Boatmen. Hear the song in Robeson’s voice here.