By Utpal Borpujari
In a state hit for decades by insurgency, the word policeman would usually conjure up the image of a tough guy, more often than not without any trace of a gentle demeanour. But for some policeman in Assam, there is a world beyond this stereotypical image, a world where the men in khaki dream up words poetic amidst the blood ‘n’ gore. Perhaps it gives a kind of positive spin to their mindset to actively indulge in literary or cultural activities in their free time, but the state has a number of police officials who do so. The state has had one DGP, Harekrishna Deka, who has even won the Sahitya Akademi award for his literary work, while several high-ranking police officials, such as Kula Saikia and Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, are known for their contributions to literary and cultural fields.
All of them have largely been treading their individual creative paths, but here comes a rare collaboration between a senior police official and one of his subordinate officers that has resulted in a music album. Titled Jui Jole (A Fire that Burns), the album has six of the ten songs penned by Prasanta Sagar Changmai, the Superintendent of Police of Assam’s easternmost Lakhimpur district, known for a relatively strong presence of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The singer is Deepak Saikia, the Officer-in-Charge of Boginadi police station in the district.
Changmai has been writing poetry since he was in school in Dhubri town in Lower Assam, and compilations of his poems have also been published, some of his poetry even been recited in an album. But this is the first time that someone has decided to treat his poetry as songs, and that too by another police official. Changmai says it happened quite accidentally. “I had released the album ‘Andolito Konthor Uchcharito Sobdo’ recited by Anupjyouti Choudhury at Padumani Than in Boginadi village. All the OCs of the area were present there. It was then that Deepak, who is the OC of Boginadi police station, insisted that I write poems for him,” he says.
The next thing they found doing, as they were sitting around a bonfire, was that Changmai was reciting the poem “Jui Jole” and Saikia was jotting it down. Then happened “Kuwoli” (Mist), and then “Emuthi Akash” (A fistful of sky) and so on. Saikia himself got inspired enough by his boss to pen down a couple himself while another assistant inspector of police pitched in with a song on the beauty of Sirajuli in Arunachal Pradesh, which has a shooting range. A song written and composed by local citizen Majin Sonowal completed the package.
Changmai’s first brush with poetry happened when he was in the fifth standard at the Dhubri Government High School, with his first poem “Mur Bhaiti Sainik Hobo” (My Little Brother will be an Army man) published in the school magazine in 1975. “But I seriously started writing poems when I joined cotton College in Guwahati in 1982, his poems making it first to the college wall magazine and then to journals like “Ajir Kabita” and “Pantha Padap”.
He carried on as he shifted to Delhi University and then to Jawaharlal Nehru University for higher studies. “My poems were translated into Bengali by Chabi Gupta and was published in the book firm, titled ‘Nijwaswa Kakshapather’ by a group called Amara Koiekjon from Silchar. Later, Kiran Prakashan of Dhemaji in Assam published my collection ‘Alop Padya Alop Godya’ (Some Poetry, Some Text) in 2008. Some of those poems were recited by Anupjyoti Choudhary in his album that was released in December, 2009,” he says.
Now, even as the album soon hits music stores in Assam, Changmai says it is not because of what is usually perceived – the contrast between his “hard” job and the “soft” world of poetry – but because of his love to create images through poems that he pens those rhythmic lines. “I would have written poems even if I had been in another profession, but yes, there is a strong group of writers, such as Nanda Singh, Mugdhajyoti Mahanta, Profulla Barman and Rahul Amin, in our department,” he says, agreeing that while it is tough to say if their profession influences their writings, it is quite true that life’s experiences do inspire creative writing. Guns ‘n’ roses, anyone, especially when one considers the fact that ULFA’s jailed spokesman Mithinga Daimary, in his pen-name avatar of Megon Kachari, is a respected poet too?