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Grieving sister recalls fond memories

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Nov 6 � She is among those who knew Bhupen Hazarika for the longest period, having the rare privilege of singing some of his first compositions. Today, Sudakshina Sarma (known as Queen to many), grieves for her eldest brother, and recalls her ties with him with tender emotions.

In an exclusive interview to The Assam Tribune, Sarma, who herself is a singer of repute spoke on a range of subjects, including Hazarikia�s period of struggle, his emergence as a singer, and separation with his wife Priyamvada M Patel.

�Dada was simple and soft hearted, bereft of any complication, a quality that endeared him to all those around him,� she said. It was something that family members knew well. He would offer meal to a visitor who would turn up at odd hours and not let someone wake up a servant in the middle of the night.

Sarma remembers that in Guwahati her brother had a lot of support from his maternal side. The culturally accomplished family in Bharalumukh had a number of superb musicians from whom Hazarika picked up the basics of music.

�The melody he inherited was from my mother, Santipriya, although father was well acquainted with the Kirtan and other holy verses,� she remarked.

In Tezpur, the Hazarika home played host to several literary and cultural figures, among whom were Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Bishnu Prasad Rava, and Phani Sarma. They all doted on young Bhupen, known as Bormoina to his family. According to Sarma, it was Tezpur that saw her brother realise his talents.

Recalling the gifts of her older sibling, Sarma said that he could compose a song within a short span of time without compromising on the quality. �When Gandhiji passed away, he was asked to write a lyric within a night to be recorded and the next night by All India Radio Calcutta�and he did just that�.

Bhupen Hazarika returned from the US with his wife and son to Guwahati in 1953, and his wife Priyamvada impressed her new family with her grace and restraint. �Bou was everything that an ideal Indian woman could be, full of love and concern for people around her�, Sarma noted. �At times she had difficulty adjusting to the local food habits, but she would not complain. A Gujarati family, the Champaklals, came to know that Bou had roots in their state, and invited us to their place at Fancy Bazar.� It became a routine for the two young women to visit their place every Sunday.

However, Hazarika�s stay in Guwahati was one of immense struggle. Culturally, he came to develop close ties with many artistes of eminence, but at the same time the financial burden was acutely felt. The last straw came with a deduction in salary while working at the Gauhati University.

Hazarika left for Calcutta, and in due course of time the rift with Priyamvada widened. An earlier romantic interest in Hazarika�s life could have led to the final spilt that led his wife to depart from Guwahati.

However, the young mother still retained a lot of regard for the Hazarika family. �Many things have been said about the separation, but the fact is Priyam Bou stood by us during our trials and tribulations�I saw how she cared for people in crisis�, Sarma stated.

She recalled that Priyamvada had once said, �I have spent twelve years with Bhupen�I cannot forget his eyes, and I see him as a child. If I had this feeling during our marriage, we would not have drifted apart�.

Priyamvada had called the ailing maestro some time back, Sarma mentioned, and added �Perhaps Dada was waiting for that call�.

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