Guwahati, April 17: A “mild cerebral stroke” midway through a Bihu concert in Guwahati last night sent balladeer Bhupen Hazarika to hospital and his legion of fans within and outside Assam into collective shock.
Hazarika had taken to the stage at the Noonmati Refinery Bihutoli, one of the popular venues for Bihu functions in the capital city, despite looking unwell. The audience ' and those watching the concert live on a local television channel ' fell silent when the singer-composer had to be escorted off the stage after he had sung a few songs.
He was taken to the Noonmati Refinery Hospital but shifted to the Guwahati Neurological Research Centre (GNRC) at Dispur soon after.
N.C. Borah, chairman-cum-managing director of the GNRC, said at a media briefing today that Hazarika, 80, was “not yet out of danger” and would remain in the intensive care unit. “He suffered a mild cerebral stroke during the performance at Noonmati. He has been suffering from some cardiac complications,” Borah said, but did not elaborate.
To the hundreds of fans waiting outside the GNRC for news about Hazarika’s condition, Borah said they need not despair because their idol’s condition had not deteriorated since being admitted to hospital. “He is responding well to medication. But it will take some days to declare Hazarika completely out of danger. He needs total rest. We have already restricted the number of visitors as any disturbance could aggravate his condition.”
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi was among the first to reach the hospital to enquire about the iconic singer’s health. Filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi, who has been Hazarika’s companion over the past decade, rushed to the city from Calcutta.
As news of Hazarika being admitted to hospital with a cerebral stroke spread, Bihu celebrations in the city and other parts of the state became muted. Although based in Mumbai, Hazarika has unfailingly been visiting the state during Bihu and performing at the bihutolis.
At Noonmati last night, Hazarika told the audience that he had been having back pain and would not be comfortable standing, as is his wont, and singing with his hands on the harmonium. He was given a chair and he said: “I am fine.”
Upon realising that it was not simple back pain, the maestro cut short his performance and broke down in tears. “This is the first time such a thing has happened in my life,” he said, struggling to complete the sentence.
Stunned into silence, the audience could only watch as Hazarika sought everybody’s “forgiveness” and promised to “return and sing on the same stage”.
Doctors attending on the singer said he would be able to perform on stage again if he recovered fully. Borah, however, sounded a note of warning. “In these kind of cases, there is only a 40 per cent chance of full recovery. But we hope for everybody’s sake that Hazarika will recover fully,” he said.
The GNRC chief also said that Hazarika was under stress and should have cut down his stage performances.
Manisha Hazarika, wife of the icon’s late brother Jayanta, said he had perhaps taken on too much for his age. “We had been requesting and advising Bhupenda to stop doing stage functions, considering his age. He has achieved everything and this is the time for him to relax,” she said.