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We are in the same boat brother...

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As I sit sipping my “red tea” in Cafe Shillong at Laitumkhrah in Meghalaya’s capital, I perhaps wallow in nostalgia when asked to speak about my association with maestro Bhupen Hazarika. To me, the genius is the “most beautiful soul” in the music industry from Assam. He is also a beautiful human being.

During the ’60s when the ride to Shillong was an adventure and Bhupenda would be on an escape from the heat of Guwahati, to be with his Khasi friends for a good sing-along laced with endless toasts, I remember times when everyone would sing Tom Dooley with our not-so-fine-tuned guitars. It was a good time for one and all, and that’s how his Manuhe manuhor babe/Jodihe okonu nebhabe/Okoni xohanubhutire/Bhabibo kone nu kuwa xomonia was born. The song can be called the Assamese version of the famous song Hang down your head Tom Dooley

Taking things easy and nursing a drink on a Shillong evening in “White Room” with my comrade, late Toto Wallang, we would strum our guitars and sing our hearts out going down memory lane, thinking of Hazarika. I don’t think he was a “doctor” then. It was also during his trips to Shillong that Monalisa Lyngdoh was immortalised. That was a song composed by the maestro, a nice little love song which was always sung during get-togethers.

During performances at the District Library in Guwahati, we would meet backstage, shake hands and shower encouraging words though without “praises” for each other, and amidst hearty talk, Hazarika would ask: “How is Shillong?”

Sharing the stage at the Assam Engineering College at Jalukbari in Guwahati one time was another unforgettable experience, when, singing his soul out with a harmonium, Hazarika took everyone to that timeless space.

When I met Hazarika in Mumbai for the Star Cement recordings some time back, I said to him: “It’s been a long time since we last met.” He replied: “I just came out of the grave!” Though he looked like a lost child at a dining table of the Taj Coromandel, yet a loving and warm atmosphere surrounded the man.

That was perhaps the last public performance of Hazarika, during the launch of the Star Cement music video when we sang We are in the same boat brother. This also reminds me of the great time shared with his brother, late Jayanta Hazarika. God bless his soul.

For now, get well soon Bhupen, and find your way to Shillong, and share your music with the people of your favourite town. We remember the countless evenings of singsongs, eating doh khlieh, doh jem and the ever tasty doh thad with a dash of salt, chillies, ginger, and onion, all of which we washed down with the local brew.

We love and respect you for your contribution to the world of music—from all your friends, admirers and lovers of Shillong. We are in the same boat, brother — God Bless, Khublei.

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