Bhupen kakababu’s death has left me orphaned. He was one of my father’s closest friends. And I looked up to him as my father figure. I’m sure there must be a zillion followers of his music around the world who must be feeling this pain. He may not have been a fatherly person for everyone personally, but his soothing voice magically threw out stress, pain, anxiety and anger out of one’s body and mind instantly, just like a warm hug from our parents.
I met him around six months ago. And at that point, I didn’t know that this was my last meeting with him. He didn’t seem very unwell at that point but at his age, health is one of the most unpredictable aspects of life. And then I heard that he was hospitalised and was critically ill.
I kept tabs on his health. I was constantly in touch with Kalpana Lajmi, who has been a companion for him for several years now. Once, she even told me that he was responding well to the medicines and was on his way to recovery.
But suddenly, his health began to deteriorate again and this time, he succumbed. I spoke to Kalpana soon after he went. She was inconsolable then. I still have to pay my condolence to the Hazarika family in Guwahati.
My first memory of meeting Bhupenkaka is at my Calcutta residence. I was four years old then. My father Aparesh was a composer, and kaka would often come home to meet him. They would chat for long hours, play their compositions for each other and laugh on myriad topics.
He’s sung so many hit Bengali numbers for my father. One of them was 'Oh Kajol Kajol'. Kaka sounded divine, not only in that song but in every song he recorded.
He’s probably the only musical genius I know who took up the cause of near-extinct forms of folk music. He introduced not only me, but the world to Bihu music and several other lesser-known forms like that.
He gave Assamese-Bangladeshi performing art a platform that it needed for survival. He never shied away from collaborating with younger artistes and musicians, especially if they belonged to the east and Northeast India because these parts he felt were thoroughly neglected.
Today, more than anyone else, and any part of India, it’s Northeast and eastern India that’s mourning his demise because they have lost their face, their voice in the mainstream.
As told to Rachana Dubey