Tinsukia (Assam): He is no more, yet his voice filled the streets of many parts of Assam Sunday, as bereaved fans of music maestro Bhupen Hazarika pulled out their collection of the bard's evergreen songs and soaked themselves in his golden voice once again.
In this small town in upper Assam, a music shop played aloud some of Hazarika's most loved songs.
"I still can't believe Bhupen da (or elder brother, as he was endearingly called) is no more. Just listen to that voice...it gives you the gooseflesh," said Arpan Deka, owner of the shop, as Hazarika's "Manuhe Manuhor Baabe" (For Man) played in the backdrop.
"He was the true son of the soil. Bhupenda has done for India, and above all, for Assam, what no one else could do. He may have died physically, but he will live forever in our hearts," added Abhijeet Das, a student.
Plunged in gloom, almost every conversation was dominated by the multi-talented music genius since Saturday, when news of his death broke. As local TV channels kept running reactions and old footage of Hazarika, people sat glued to their TV screens.
Music shop owners said that they have been getting a number of customers looking for cassettes and music CDs of Hazarika's songs.
"Bissakhe huwa nai (I can't believe it)," said 60-year-old Amiya Phukan, a school teacher in Dibrugarh town in Assam.
"I remember watching him perform live in Guwahati sometime in the late eighties. It was a cold December night and my husband and I sat shivering, waiting for him to come on stage after the other artistes...and when he came, it was so much more worth the wait," she said, misty eyed.
Ziaur Rahman, a doctor and an ardent fan of Hazarika, reminisced the moment when he and his wife met the musician after one of his concerts in Gohpur, another small town in the state.
"He was as down to earth as his songs. No pretence, no arrogance. We met him and posed for photographs. The picture is one of our prized possessions," Rahman said.
"When I heard of his demise last evening, I pulled out my collection of Bhupenda's songs, like 'Manuhe Manuhor Baabe', 'Buku Hoom Hoom Kore', 'Moi Eti Xaxabor' and played them again. They are evergreen - not just because they are so melodious, but also because they speak volumes of topics which will always be relevant, like universal love and brotherhood and love for one's homeland," he added.
In several places, people lit earthen lamps in tribute to the great musician.
Hazarika died at the age of 85 in a Mumbai hospital Saturday.
His's coffin will arrive at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati around 11.30 a.m. Monday.
Elaborate arrangements have been made for the funeral, which is planned for Tuesday. Fans and well wishers will be allowed to pay their last respects throughout Monday night.
"I wish they had got Bhupenda's body to his people sooner. Assam has lost her son, and the people cannot wait to see him for one last time, before bidding adieu," said an emotional Anuradha Sarma Pujari, a well-known writer of the state.
Sixteen-year-old Nimisha Sharma, a student, added: "I and most of my friends don't listen to Assamese music as much as our parents do. Yet, if there is someone who we really look up to in Assamese music, it is Bhupen Hazarika. For us, he was and will always be, the czar of music".
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