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The Rediff Special/M D Riti in Bangalore
'I was set to dance at Nafisa's wedding'
July 30, 2004
I was all set to go and dance at her wedding," says Prasad Bidappa, Bangalore's beauty queenmaker.
"I am devastated that I am crying over her death instead. The enormity of Nafisa's act is yet to sink in."
Nafisa Joseph, who allegedly committed suicide at the age of 25 in Mumbai on Thursday, had a close relationship with Bidappa for many years.
Bidappa is the man credited with grooming Nafisa into the beauty queen and model she became. He continued to remain her mentor and friend even after she moved to Mumbai, to pursue a career in modelling, and later, television.
He seemed to be in a daze, and spoke exclusively to rediff.com straight from his heart, in Bangalore.
To Bidappa, Nafisa was the girl who had it all, and who had achieved more than anyone could have hoped to at her age and in her chosen professions.
"It is such a tragedy," he says. "She was such a beautiful, brilliant girl. I would call her a superachiever."
He spoke to her last about 10 days ago, when she called him up from Mumbai to remind him to come to her wedding.
"She ordered me to write it into my diary, block my ticket and make my bookings," he says. "I did all that at once."
"Not just me; all her friends too. Everyone was going. Nafisa kept closely in touch with all her friends in Bangalore. When I came into my office today and saw her wedding invitation on my desk, I felt so destroyed."
The invitation, he says, arrived almost two weeks ago.
Bidappa recalls that Nafisa came to him as a child model, brought to him by "good friends" of his. "They thought I was the right person for her to start with," he says.
She did some modelling assignments for him as a child and then stopped, so that she could get finish her final year of school. She was in Bishop Cotton's Girls High School in Bangalore at that time.
"She came back to me when she was 16," continues Bidappa. "She said she wanted to become a professional model. She was tall and beautiful. Quite gorgeous, actually! I began giving her a lot of work. Then she told me she wanted to try the Miss India contest. I thought she was too young. But she convinced me that she was not. So I began training her."
Bidappa says he found her very easy to work with and train. "She was so fresh and pretty in front of the camera," he says. "She was so together. She listened carefully to all my advice and followed it totally. So I was able to polish her very quickly."
Nafisa, says Bidappa, was the youngest contestant at that competition in 1997. And she won. "It was a great victory, as far as I was concerned," he says.
He enjoyed working with her too, because she was a "thorough professional."
Bidappa recalls that if he gave her a show to compere, she would do her homework, and then do a flawless job at the event.
Then came some of what Bidappa feels would have been the toughest years of her life, when she moved to Mumbai on her own as a teenager.
"She survived that move, and managed to achieve so much for herself after that," he says. "She even earned enough to buy herself a home in Mumbai! She had such a perfect life, really. Why on earth did she throw it all away now?"
Nafisa continued to be "more than a son" to her parents. "She was always there for them when they needed her," he says. "She looked after them so well. They were in her heart all the time. The same thing with her friends."
Six months ago, when she quit MTV, she asked Bidappa what he thought was the right direction to go in. "By then, she had matured into such a fine woman," he says. "She was so good in front of the television camera. I told her she should continue working for television. I advised her to become the Oprah Winfrey of Indian television! She certainly had the potential to do that."
He feels her decision is a sad reflection on the "general lot" of Indian women.
"Finally, their lives are defined by the settling down that they are expected to do," he says. "Her life was going so well on all fronts. It always did. It is only her personal life that was so unfortunate."