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Auckland’s Kiwi-Indian community lost a humble and sincere friend in Sanjay Badakere, who passed away last week at the age of 67. Widely known in the community as an empathetic advisor and helpful friend to many despite his indifferent health over many months, Sanjay was self-effacing and unassuming to a fault.

Married for 41 years to well-known musician, singer, teacher and popular event organiser Sandhya Rao Badakere, Sanjay was a finance professional all his life – and also had a sporting side to him. Sandhya reminisced about Sanjay’s life and times speaking to The Indian Weekender.

Raised in Mumbai, he worked for several leading organisations in India including a top nationalised bank, which he represented in table tennis at the national level, before moving to New Zealand in the early 2000s. He worked for a few companies here before practicing accountancy and building up a sizeable clientele, some of whom remained with him until very recently.

Sandhya says Sanjay was the spirit behind the success of her institute Swar Sadhana’s events. “He would conceive the idea, the theme, the design, select the songs, the sequence and every detail of each of the events down the years,” she said. “He was a walking-talking encyclopedia of Hindi film music.”

He remembered every detail of thousands of songs – the singer, lyricist, composer, name of the film, its director, the year of release and even details like what location it was filmed in, Sandhya said. That was invaluable knowledge in developing themes.

“While he planned our shows to the last detail, he was very nervous on the day of the show… he would constantly think ‘what if she [Sandhya] messes up?’ … he would also never show up at rehearsals, giving me a free hand to direct the show. He never sat in the front rows during the shows,” Sandhya added.

Sandhya described their relationship as more of a deep, lifelong friendship than merely a spousal one: “We were more friends than a couple. He never influenced my choices. He was always encouraging. Even with our daughters [Priyanka and Ritika], he never interfered with their activities. He would say, ‘whatever you choose to do, do it well’, he was a very good father and never made his presence felt,” she said.

Sanjay would plan Swar Sadhana’s shows over a whole year. This year’s show dedicated to legend Raj Kapoor was to be staged on May 8 but has been postponed by a year. However, the detailed plan had already been drawn up over the past year by Sanjay. “He told me you must sing four songs in the Raj Kapoor show,” Sandhya said. She normally restricts herself to one or at most two songs on stage.

“He wanted me to sing Jaago Mohan Pyaare.” Sandhya recorded the song in her voice and sent it to Sanjay through son-in-law Jatin [Ritika’s husband] when he was in hospital just days before he passed away.

“I wanted him to listen, I prayed to God to let him have a listen since he had requested it. He listened to it intently and approved of it and said ‘Good’,” Sandhya said. “That felt so satisfying.” For some reason, he also remembered what he considered the best song ever performed in Swar Sadhana’s shows, Tere Liye from the film Veer Zara in 2012, Jatin told the family.

His family and large group of friends will miss him much. Particularly Umesh Patel, Satish Patwardhan and Amrinder Singh ‘Pintuji’, who took him for a car ride every evening during his illness and to a movie and dinner every Monday night when he was able to, and to which he always eagerly looked forward.

Next year’s RK concert will have the indelible stamp of Sanjay’s song selection and meticulous planning, much like its earlier edition way back in 2006, and will undoubtedly a worthy tribute by his grateful friends to this unassuming and humble soul that touched so many lives in the community.

RIP, Sanjay.

First appeared on 15 May 2020