Upendra Kalita is now a forgotten artist whom most of the Assamese people do not even know. This will not be a surprise if we find out someday that the Cultural Department of Assam won’t have any information about this Artist.
Upendra Kalita came to people’s notice when one Facebook user from Darang who also happens to be a son of one of Upendra Kalita’s disciples posted about his condition on the social media platform. He with some of his friends went to see the Artist extend some help.
The Ojapali is the most distinctive Folk dance form of Assam representing the rich tradition and cultural heritage of Assam. Out of the all traditional cultures of Assam, Ojapli is one of the oldest performing arts.
An Ojapali performance combines narrative singing and dancing interspersed with dramatic dialogue and action. Though perceived in the district of kamrup, Nalbari etc. in Lower Assam, it is but most popular in the district of Darrang.
Ojapali can be categorized into two major forms – Byah Ojapali and Sukananni Ojapali, based on their style of performance. Byah Ojapali performers are also known as ‘Vyah-gowa’ or singers of Vyasa’s works, as they primarily focus on the great epics.
One of such Vyah Gowa or Vyasa Ojapali is Upendra Kalita, a resident of Chenyalpara is in death bed today. This artist has dedicated his entire life to Vyas Ojapali. The artist has spread the glory of Darangi kalkrishti by performing Vyas ojapali on various platforms like Sahitya Sabha, Doordarshan, radio Centre.
Upendra Kalita was born on October 1st, 1942 in Chenyalpara village of darrang district to Late Baneshwar Kalita and late Sukuli Kalita. He did his schooling at Barasara Primary school but had to leave school due to his family’s financial condition and No transportation connectivity from his home to school.
Since a very young age he was attracted to traditional culture., and because of his extreme weakness towards traditional music, just after finishing his school, he started practicing Vyas music. Later he started to go to Vyas Oja Late Khagendra Sharma at Thekerabari to learn Vyas Music.
Later he started a Vyas Ojapali team along with other palis of his village and started performing in and around his district, and places Nagaon, Morigaon Etc. They used to perform in Vyas Ojapali in Sabha, Puja, etc where people love them immensely.
Till 1990 for almost 20 years he somehow kept spreading the glory of Vyas Ojapali with the love of people. Unfortunately towards the end of the year 1990, he suffered from a severe heart condition which eventually led him to leave his music career. Because of this, his family’s economic condition worsens and he & his family had to struggle to make the living.
Before leaving his musical career, he taught Vyas music to 5 other ojapali teams in and around Mangaldai town. These Ojapali Dals still perform Vyas Ojapali in places and keeping the glory of Vyas Ojapali alive.
Since 1990 after he suffered from heart diseases, he received an artist pension Once from the Government. Since then no government official from the Cultural department has visited him till now. Some of his disciple and allegiance of Upendra Kalita has been helping him financially as per their capabilities and helping this artist to survive somehow.
The government offered his Pension for once and then nobody ever felt like reaching out to the person and help him whichever way possible.
Almost every traditional artist faces the same condition in Assam. Some of them have to leave the Art and so something to make a living. And some of them suffer like Upendra Kalita when they are no more able to perform and earn for their own.
Artist pension or any type of government fund fails to reach them.
The person wrote about Upendra Kalita’s pitiful state and urged people to come forward to such artists who do not get any help from the government’s side.
Recently we all came across the heartwrenching story of Baba ka Dhaba from Delhi, and then how people showered love on him and on this eatery after his story went viral. There has always been a lot of helpless people around us, who need us, who need our help, but most of the time we fail to recognize and sometimes we choose to ignore.
We should always look for people like Upendra Kalita, who for his whole life glorified Assamese folk culture but never got a good life. We all should come forward to pay respect for the great things he has done for Assam and Assamese culture.