BY BHASKAR PHUKAN
Perhaps the only time Aichute Bora didn’t do it right is to depart so suddenly. Fifty is too awkward an age to die. When I received the phone call informing that my childhood friend Aichute was no more, my first reaction was of incredulity. Then I remembered it was 1st April. Someone must be making a fool out of me with this tasteless joke. But as the news was confirmed that Aichute had indeed succumbed to an acute myocardial infarction while driving his car at Guwahati, a permanent void came to my life. Beyond the shock and the grief, there is a deep sense of personal loss. Everything that he did and achieved represented the best that someone from a middle class background in Assam could achieve on his own through ambition and hard work.
Aichute joined Oil India Limited after graduating in mechanical engineering from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati. Through out his career in OIL, he worked as a drilling engineer and only since the last two years joined as Chief Manager, Public Relations.
One thing that always impressed me about Aichute was his great love for the organisation he worked all his life. He couldn’t think of serving anywhere else other than what he fondly called “my company”, spurning opportunities of working abroad under multinational companies with fat pay packages. As his mortal remains were put to flames at the Nabagraha cremation ground, Guwahati, it was an unusual sight to see a top executive of Oil India Limited weep like a child before the pyre of his departed junior colleague. It was truly a great loss for OIL His death cast a shadow on his organisation. With more than a decade of service still left — and with his impeccable track record of the last twenty five years — Aichute would have surely gone on to occupy the top most position of his organisation. But more than that, it was a terrible loss for his family and friends.
All of us who knew him realised that there was something close to genius — a kind of crazy brilliance — in everything that he did. Sometimes to a degree of irritability for the rest of us not because of what he did but because of what the rest of us couldn’t. When Philip Triptrope, one of our favourite teachers of Don Bosco School, Guwahati passed away, Aichute was present at his funereal though it was more than three decades since he had left school. All of us were all too busy with our lives to spare time to be at the funereal of our former teacher but not Aichute. It was typically his style to come all the way from Duliajan to pay his respects at the last rites of his former school teacher.
A simple man with few complaints on what life handed him, Aichute was too focused on his own limited priorities to pontificate on the politics of the day or the real and perceived sense of injustice that most of us give vent to in so many issues touching our personal and social lives. He was not too concerned about the dogmas of our times. In a way he might appear somewhat naive but that was also what made him so unique and likeable. Born with a hyperactive gene that spurred him to action whenever anyone sought his help, at Duliajan where he spent his entire career there was hardly anyone not benefited by Aichute’s benevolence. Just do it was his simple motto. From his childhood days till his final moments, Aichute lived life on his own terms with sheer exhilaration.
Once when we were students of class vii in Don Bosco School, Guwahati a fete had been organised at the school premises which was attended by Hiteswar Saikia then Education Minister of the state as chief guest. A holiday was declared and Aichute and I along with another class mate Gautam Das had other plans for the day. As soon as the chief guest left, led by Aichute we dashed out of the school. We ran through the streets and reached Kelvin Cinema Hall just in time to catch the noon show of a Hollywood movie, Conquest of the Planet of Apes. As soon as the movie ended, spurred by Aichute, we again made a dash for Fancy Bazaar. This time it was to Rupayan Cinema Hall to watch the matinee show of a Bollywood movie Chalte Chalte. Those days, before the advent of television, it was a momentous event for us to be able to watch two movies on a single day. Thanks to Aichute, I still remember how happy and excited we were that day to savour our first breath of freedom as school kids.
As we grew up, our lives took different paths. We didn’t meet often but always kept track of one another. And whenever we met it was as if we didn’t separate at all.
“O Ra” a mild form of “Hey You” was his way of addressing his friends. And when his “O Ra” bursts through the mobile phone during the evening hours one was prepared to be delighted by a non stop barrage of gossip and jokes, some of which were pure locker room stuff. He took a certain pride in impressing people that age had not been able to mellow his spirits, comparing himself with some or other friend who now lived a staid and humdrum life. He was also a happy family man, always doting on his wife and son, his only child.
But the same fellow turned into a hard nosed professional when it came to anything concerning his official work. The last time I talked with him was about a week before his death. It was early in the morning when he called and I was in a frivolous mood. He cut me short and asked me something about the Swachh Bharat Abhijan. I gave him the information and he thanked me with an apology. “Sorry, I am in an official meeting. We will talk later”. Then I remembered that the working time of Oil India Limited at Duliajan starts from 7.00 am and he didn’t want to discuss anything other than the official.
As the details of Aichute’s unexpected end came to be known, a poignant story emerged that revealed how his personality was nurtured and shaped by the very best tradition of Assamese society, something so rare to find now, save in the hearts of few like him.
Aichute was born in Shillong, the youngest of five children of Jogendra Nath Bora who had worked in Shillong, the capital of Assam, before the creation of Meghalaya. Aichute’s childhood was spent in the idyllic pine studded hill station where he studied at St Edmunds School. During this time, a Nepali youth, Tai Narayan Jaishi worked as a peon under his father. In fact it was Jogendra Nath Bora who helped Jaishi secure his job. The grateful Jaishi considered the Bora family as his own and took care of the children .Such was the bond between the Nepali peon and the Bora household that the children were forbidden to speak disrespectfully towards Jaishi. When Meghalaya was created, Jogendra Nath Bora shifted to Guwahati along with his family. Aichute enrolled in Don Bosco, Guwahati where he became my class mate in 1975. Jaishi too shifted from Shillong to Guwahati and again became a member of the Bora household at G S Road near Dispur Post Office. Once, during his school days, Aichute was seriously ill with a bout of jaundice. When his condition worsened, Jaishi carried the sick boy on his arms and rushed him to the Medical College nearby for hospitalisation. It is said Jaishi’s prompt action saved the boy. Jaishi remained with the Bora family through thick and thin. Only after he retired from service did Jaishi finally leave for Nepal where his own family was permanently settled. But he maintained his contacts with the Bora family. Whenever it was possible, he came down to Guwahati and stayed with the family.
However, with advancing age, Jaishi’s visits became rarer. This time, after a long gap of ten years, Jaishi made a trip to Guwahati. Aichute was also in Guwahati on leave at the same time for his son’s engineering entrance examination. He was overjoyed at meeting Jaishi after such a long time. Out of concern for him, Aichute took Jaishi to a hospital and made him undergo a health check up.
On the morning of the fateful day, Aichute took Jaishi for darshan to the Kamakhya Temple.
Later, in the evening, accompanied by his sister, Alpana baidew, Aichute set out with Jaishi to show him another landmark of the city, the Balaji Temple. Aichute was behind the wheels of his car. Just as they were about to reach the temple, it happened suddenly. Aichute’s body was wreaked by a spell of cough followed by severe chest pain. He could barely talk. He stopped the car and gasping for breath passed out. With the help of a passer by, Alpana baidew and Jaishi drove Aichute to a hospital but he had already departed by the time they reached the hospital. Aichute passed away in the arms of Jaishi, his father’s old employee — and the beneficiary of his last act of generosity.