Kalpana Lajmi pens a book about her Late husband Dr Bhupen Hazarika

Sep 09, 2018, 08:52 IST | Kusumita Das

Seven years after Dr Bhupen Hazarika's demise, his partner Kalpana Lajmi pens a book to world know the other side

Kalpana Lajmi pens a book about her Late husband Dr Bhupen Hazarika
Kalpana Lajmi Pics/Bhupen Hazarika - As I Knew Him, HarperCollins

It's never easy to write about something that has so deeply affected you. For filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi, who lost her partner Dr Bhupen Hazarika in 2011, whom she had known for more than 60 years, the grief seemed insurmountable. She needed an outlet but the more she thought of it, she was dragged down by acute depression. "I couldn't share my feelings with anyone, but, finally I did. I told everything to my friends Soni Razdan and Mahesh Bhatt."

That was the start of a coping mechanism for Lajmi. And eventually, she poured out all she had to say in writing, which has now taken the shape of a book that releases this week. It's titled Bhupen Hazarika — As I Knew Him, published by HarperCollins. In an email interview, Lajmi says, "Mr Mahesh Bhatt has always been my friend, philosopher and guide. And, he said something precious to me — 'heartbreak is a gift but self pity is poison'.

Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Kalpana Lajmi in Nagaon, Assam, during the shoot of Daman in 2000
Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Kalpana Lajmi in Nagaon, Assam, during the shoot of Daman in 2000

He added, 'Kalpana, you spent 40 years of your life with a great man and a legendary person like him. You have such real precious memories, why don't you pour them out on paper. People know him as singer, poet, musician, activist. Start writing about his actual self, which people are unaware of'. Mahesh's words struck me." The next day, Lajmi wrote the foreword of the book, and titled it Dhumuha. "It's Assamese for a tempestuous storm. Bhupen epitomised it," she says.

The book traces their story from the time Lajmi was 17 and Dr Hazarika was 45. They had met at her uncle's house, moments after she heard his voice on a record player for the first time. Hazarika at that time was scoring music for her uncle Atmaram's film Aarop. "The doorbell rang and there he stood, painfully thin, dark circles under his kind eyes, a dazzling smile, wearing a shirt that had two cigarette burn marks. I was a fat, awkward teen, in my school uniform. It must have been love at first sight," recalls Lajmi.

Kalpana Lajmi, Shabana Azmi, Hemen Baruah and Dr Hazarika during the making of her first film Ek Pal
Kalpana Lajmi, Shabana Azmi, Hemen Baruah and Dr Hazarika during the making of her first film Ek Pal

Their relationship turned out to be a potent mix of storm and calm, with society, family and until a point even Hazarika himself, not wanting to give it its due sanction. "He would introduce me as his manager," says Lajmi. It was in her early 20s that she moved in with him in his Kolkata flat. "Marriage was discussed only once," Lajmi recalls. "Bhupen was 80 when he asked me to marry him. 'Right now, let's get married' he had said. I lashed out at him. 'I always wanted marriage. But, you never bothered to ask me when you were 48, 58, or 68. At 80 you dare ask me to marry you?'"

The book contains illustrations made by her mother, renowned painter Lalita Lajmi. She had never approved of her daughter's relationship, but perhaps grew to understand it. "When I decided not to go for the funeral, it was she who told me, how can you desert him now, after 40 years'." Kalpana Lajmi has been on the receiving end of many brickbats from Dr Hazarika's family and also the people of Assam who never approved of their relationship. "I am yet to overcome the impact of their rejection. I did not write the book to portray myself as an angel who stood by Bhupen. I have spoken truthfully. So I hope after reading the book, people will understand my side of the story."

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