Shayanika Das with inputs from Kalyan Deb
The morning of June 3, 2012 saw the skies overcast and blue. Clouds seemed to be hanging low over the horizon wanting to catch a glimpse of the thousands odd gathering to honour a legend with another.
We, and like us many braved the lashing of the dark cloud’s offspring, scrambling underneath umbrellas to protect our guitars more than ourselves and set forth towards the Sarusojai Stadium. The spectacle there would have made Bhupen da proud, with families and teens gathered amidst the lush greens, dressed in sombre white and many hued six-strings. Albeit the rains hampering the arrival of many, the mere fact that 5,406 Guwahatians gathered in front of the Jajabor stage was a sign of respect and immense love that each and everyone present felt towards the legend Bhupen Hazarika and his music. He was undoubtedly a man, who not only gave us many a great tunes and cinema, but one who also helped in putting Axom on the cultural map of India and the world. So, what better way to pay tribute to the legend than, by making another one in his wake.
The event, which was sponsored by Pepsi Co had two aims, one to pay respect to the great artiste and the other was to help Axom gain a name in the Limca Book of Records.
A similar feat is achieved every year in Poland, under the Guiness Book of World Records. This festival called the ‘Jimi Hendrix Festival’ is held every year to honour the legend, wherein people from all over gather to strum one of his songs. The record of last year stands at a headcount of 7,233.
So, in our case, to break this record, we needed a total of 7,234 participants. Although, we fell short by 2,000 participants, it is indeed a heartening feeling to see that our motherland, Axom not far behind in setting records.
Be it poetic justice or a tribute leading to a national record, it was evident that no Assamese was over the sad loss of one of the jewels of our times. This was evident with many a dignified personalities like, Minister Pronoti Phukan, Dibakar Das, Ankur Dutta, JP Das, brothers Amar Hazarika, Balen Hazarika and his sister Suddakhina Sharma, who was also the Chief Guest of the event, poured their hearts out at the Jajabor on the rainy Sunday.
One of the anecdotes to be heard was the narration of how the great Bhupen da came upon composing the song to be played on the day, Bristir No Parore.
The two minute silence observed in the stadium for the deceased, just before rehearsals was a moment of humble gratitude towards the maestro for inspiring generations throughout.
‘He was truly a gypsy; a gypsy by heart and mind, his mind would wander into never ever lands, from where he would return bearing tunes to enthral the soul’ says a participant of the event, Chiranjib Deka. Furthermore, when asked about the experience of the Sunday, he says, “I was present in Shillong too when the Guiness Book of World Records was achieved by the Northeast. But this was a different experience altogether.”
He further added, “This event is a congregation of the passion seen in Guwahati alone, barring the involvement of other music lovers from the region. No doubt the national record was created, but we were hoping for the world record, which would have starred Guwahati and Axom on the world map. The attempt nevertheless was brilliant, with the mellow weather contributing to the allure of the day.”
He rues saying, “Had the weather been favourable, we could have seen a better footfall and even my cousin, who had to miss the event on account of rains, could have made it here.”
Organizing such an event requires tremendous effort and dedication on behalf of the committee behind it. Likewise, this massive event would not have been such a huge success, had it not been for the efforts of the man behind the idea of ‘Jajabor 2012’, Subhrajyoti Das.
Whilst in a chat, Subhrajyoti speaks about the event and the intricacies behind undertaking such a responsibility, “On November 5, the day when our dear Bhupen da left for his heavenly abode, I saw thousands of people gathered on the streets to pay a last visit to the departed soul. This spectacle left a huge impact and the inspiration to put together such an event was born.”
“ Initially, the idea was to put up a concert in order to pay tribute to the legend, which I thought would be enough with 500-1000 guitarists strumming to the song Old Man’s River by Paul Robson’s, which is an English version of Bristir No Parore. The idea to attempt any kind of world record was never a part of the plan. It happened during the process of planning the concert.”
“During the process of organizing the event, we first approached Ankur Dutta, who was also the Chief Advisor for the event. He was the person responsible for gathering legal permissions and sponsorship to make the event possible,” he continues.
In the beginning, the venue for choosing Jajabor 2012 was Chandmari ground, but after taking into consideration certain glitches that might have come up, we had decided to go for Sarusojai Sports Complex. “Several well known and eminent personalities lent their helping hand in making the event a success,” added Subhra who is also a guitarist and has been playing since he was in the 11th standard.
The stadium saw many volunteers who were seen helping young guitarists with the procedures of registration and also it was their responsibility to assign respective participants with their numbered Pepsi Jajabor cards. As Shubra praises the committee, he adds, “The organizing committee was entirely voluntary, with people providing their involvement out of free will. Along with friends and fellow musicians Debasish Bhattacharji, Sarfaraz Hussain, Rajiv Baruah and Sheehan Borbhuyan, who also happened to be a music teacher, veteran singer JP Das mentored us in each and every step.
When asked about the toughest hurdles he faced during the process of organizing the event, he said, “Initially, it was tough gathering sponsorships for the event. It was not easy gaining the confidence of the companies. But, finally sponsorships flowed in from companies who kept the faith in us. And it worked out well. Didn’t it?” He further said that, Sanjay Das MDM, Pepsi Co, personally stepped up to hold the baton on hearing the idea of the event.”
“When Subhrajyoti showed up with the idea of putting up such a huge event, I got awestruck. I thought, these are just college boys and look at them, trying to do something so huge!” said Sanjay Das in an interview over phone. He also disclosed that Pepsi Co, in collaboration with Subhrajyoti will be organizing a similar event next year named Pepsi Jajabor.
The idea behind Pepsi Jajabor is to leave a social message in order to unite the Seven Sisters. “Bhupen Da, dedicated his entire life for the social upbringing of his native land. After the overwhelming response we recieved from Jajabor 2012, putting up such an event annually will be our effort to break the social boundaries among the people of Northeast.
“Bhupen Hazarika was a symbol of love and unity and we want to carry his message of world peace and universal brotherhood”, said Subhrajyoti who also composed a song named O Jajabor based on Bhupen Hazarika.
On the other hand, participants Sanjib Bharali and Sultan Ali Ahmed, who happened to have had the privilege of playing in the world record event of the Shillong Autumn Fest, had glowing words of appraisal for Jajabor’12.
‘Well, we had an amazing time at the event, to see so many guitarists strumming in harmony to the tune of our very own ever-green Bhupen da.”
Jajabor this year, made it possible to break the world record which was being held by Shillong. “This record is all that more special since it was from our homeland Guwahati. Kudos to the organisers. I must say that breaking the world record is not a far-fetched dream anymore.’ says Sanjib.
As the evening drew to a close and after Smita Thomas from Limca announced that a new National record has been registered under the name of Jajabor and Axom, the feelings of joy that ran amidst the throng of people present was evident from their hearty smiles. The clouds turned prussian again as everyone lifted their guitars as a salute, and my thoughts ran amok about the times that we live in now. In a nation filled with complexities, violence raging the youth, maladies ravaging the old, value of life and money going down by the day’s dawn, any event or occurrence which can fill hearts with joys of a simpler dream is a successful one. The way Bhupen Hazarika’s music can take the mind back to a time unbridled; Jajabor too played its part in sweetening an otherwise gloomy Sunday. Only if we try and unite, we can bring back the harmony among nation’s hearts and make a better place for generations to come where they too can sit beside a mighty sparkling river, and hum,
‘....Noitikotar Skhalan Dekhiyu, Manobotar poton dekhiyu Nirlojjuo Alokh bhabe buwaa kiyo?’
As the legend rests in peace and the legacy moves on.....