[It is not unusual to find a director’s wife becoming a part of a film unit, mostly to kill time. But in our case, we are working together for close to 16 years. And we are married for the last 8 years. Whether it is to edit my documentaries or to do art direction/ costumes in my productions, time and again I use her. Both for the belief that she understands closest to what I have in mind and the fact that I can give vent to the frustration without thinking twice when things does not go according to my plan…Here she shares her experience of ‘Guns & Guitars’ ]
“Siangore Ga’hlong, lohitore Khamti, tirapore Wangchuwe muk kio matise..
Axhomire poduli, udulire moduli,
morom senehore haat bohi se…”
My mother is one of those many Assamese girls of her time, who grew up listening to Bhupen Hazarika’s song.. and who was God for them. My granduncle who knew Mr. Hazarika personally, once asked him- ‘what is it that you have in your voice that makes my niece throw every care to the wind and rush over to the radio when she hears your voice? God save the person who is in her way!’ To which Mr. Hazarika just gave a hearty laugh…
I grew up listening to his songs, mostly in her voice .. one of my favorite is when she sings ‘Siangore ga’hlong lohitore khamti…’ I don’t know if at that tender age I actually understood what the song was about. I think, it was the lilting melody of the song and the way the words seems to roll off her tongue as she sang, that attracted me more. One happy memory that I carry with me is of those ‘blackout’ summer evenings- us sitting on the veranda, ma singing to us happily.. as we joined her in our off key voices!
Many moons have passed since.. I left home for higher studies, started working, got married.. for more than fifteen years I have been away from my homeland, and for the last ten years Bombay has been my home. Last year the shooting of our film ‘Guns & Guitars’ took me to Northeast and I got the wonderful opportunity to travel all the eight states together – i.e. now ‘seven sisters and a brother’!
For almost a month our team was traveling from one state to another… meeting musical bands along with people from various walks of life. The film gave us the chance to interact with them from a much close quarter. Such amazing voices, songs unheard yet.. but gunshot is all we hear! I saw the land like I had not seen it before. At every step humbled by the land and the people who crossed my path. Many a time I was amazed at my own ignorance. Just to think, we are neighboring lands and yet I knew so little of them .. we are similar in so many aspect and yet with such strong independent identities; that made us distinctively different and beautiful. We are one of the most varied confluences of races, custom and culture; not to say that we all live in one of the most bio -diversified place of the world!
One of my most memorable moment was – we were already half way through our journey.. after a long bus ride from Imphal we reached Kohima. Due to some miscommunication we missed our stop and the bus left us stranded at the outskirt of the town. We were waiting for a vehicle to take us back to our hotel in the town. Our team must have made a sight! Tired and haggard and kind of lost. … I was sitting atop one of my bag, in front of a small road side shop, waiting- I was startled by a soft voice that spoke to me- tonhot Axhomot pora ahiso? (you have come from Assam?) It was, I think, one of the most beautiful sentence I have heard in some time; spoken in a language I remember only from my mother’s childhood stories… ‘Nagamese’. I turned around and there was the sweetest looking old lady.. the shopkeeper. She smiled at me as if she already knew me. We got to chatting- me in Assamese and she in Nagamese. Soon our taxi arrived and we bid the old lady bye.. but she stayed with me. That one sentence like magic made everything clear to me… right from the the song – Siangore ga’hlong…, to my father stories from his student days in Shillong, to the conversation with the Vice Chancellor of Itanagar University, who spontaneously started speaking to us in ‘Nefamesse’ the moment he knew we were from Assam; just the way most elderly person spoke to us in Arunachal Pradesh. ‘…Ubhotiye sai dekhun aahisey xhinhotu, ringniai kole muk kisu beli robi, ubhoti goi toi Axhomike kobi, aaji pahare voiyamore kolija sinise…’ roughly translated – ‘looking back, I saw.. they have followed me, they shouted out – wait a moment, go back and tell Assam- today the hills have been touched by the heart of the valley.’
Back in Bombay, I am at my editing room- along with other projects, edit on ‘ Guns and Guitars’ is on. Working on the film has been emotional and psychological upheaval for most of the team members… who are mostly from the northeast but working and staying away from their homeland for quite some time now… Wanted to hear that song again.
After searching desperately on the net for some time, I could finally find the link. Played it- something is wrong, I couldn’t feel the childhood glee that used to envelope me when my mother sang it.. a choking feeling and tears rolled down… I shook myself out of the stupor- of course it was the romantic fool in me, those are but songs of past..
What happened to this land.. our land, our people? How did we grow apart, how did we become strangers amongst our own …
This journey became the proverbial homecoming for me. And I am hoping against hope that I am not too late!
‘Siangore ga’hlong lohitore khamti tirapore Wangchuwe muk kio matise.. Axhomire poduli, udulire moduli,
morom senehore haat bohi se…
O’ pahorore tolitey, voiyamore xhimate sinakee, sinakee ki xhobaah bohi se
Monpa kokaiti dhorilu xhaboti binimoiot teu’n diley buddha’re muroti, koley jug jugor mitiralir dhwaja urisey… ‘
(This song figuratively speaks of various Indigenous peoples from the hills of Arunachal coming down to celebrate their brotherhood with the people from the valley of Assam- together celebrating their unity in their diversity. Dr. Bhupen Hazarika in his songs often spoke longingly of the tread that traditionally binds the various tribes of northeast in a chain of solidarity)
Note- Today is the birthday of the late Bhupen Hazarika and this post is a special tribute to him.