My daughter and I first met the iconic singer Bappiji at a Lebanese restaurant in Karama where he was dining with two of his buddies. The year was 2012.
I went up to him casually and asked if he was ‘Bappiji’, knowing that the best way to identify him was through his layers of gold chains and his outlandish style. To my surprise, he answered ‘yes’ and that chance encounter triggered my friendship and camaraderie with this legend.
Bappiji was unlike any other flashy celebrity that I have seen or heard of.
To our surprise, he invited us to sit to his table to have lunch with him and he meant every word of his invite. I hesitated because it was unusual for a star to invite a fan and stranger to dine, but Bappiji insisted. Such was the charm of this singer who had a heart of gold. And what impressed me was how he was such a through gentleman.
Around that time, Gulf News had just launched a Hindi radio station. I casually requested him to come over to that station and he merrily agreed. Our chance meeting at the restaurant had translated into a deep friendship and bond between us.
From then on, every time he visited Dubai, he made sure to keep in touch with me. He used to call me up and talk about his travel plans at length, sharing anecdotes about his frequent trips to the US and the new albums he was working on with international artists. From that point on, he would pay a visit to our radio station each time he flew into Dubai.
He was the kind of musician who doesn’t surround himself with handlers or secretaries. He was deeply personal and was great at forging new bonds.
As we come to terms with his sudden death, I can’t help but marvel at the void that he has left behind. He was a friend that I made for life and he will be sorely missed.
As I listen to his hit songs, I can’t help wonder if musicians who were so warm and friendly would grace my life again. But here’s to Bappiji for living his life with warmth and kindness.