Parveen: Precious and Poignant

Parveen Sultana Wali Mohammad Khanji Babi, better known as Parveen Babi was born on 4th April 1954 in Junagadh. She was born to a sexagenarian Wali Muhammad Babi and his forty-year-old wife Jamil after 14 years of their nikah. Wali Muhammad was a part of Nawabi bhayyat or brotherhood. He came from the Babi tribe of Pashtuns which is known as the Pathans of Gujarat. He was a girasadar and a wahiwaatdar in colonial India. In free India, he decided to settle in a fifty-four-roomed Danbai Haveli at Diwan Chowk in the heart of Junagadh.

The seeds of trauma

Parveen had a privileged childhood but it was punctuated with many personal and social tragedies. Those tragedies, boosted by genetic makeup and drug abuse, were exhibited as mental ailments. As a result, when she left us in 2005, her life became a poignant documentary of the neglect of mental health and unrestrained drug abuse.

Her first tryst with anguish was when her father developed lethal throat cancer. The little girl witnessed his painful journey towards death. The cold and wretched atmosphere of the hospital gave her a lifelong fear of doctors and hospitals.

Although her father passed away when she was 5, her mother got her educated in both school and college. But the communal riots that broke out during her college instilled more insecurities in her mind.

From a college goer to an actress

Parveen was an excellent student with a photographic memory. She was awarded a double promotion in her Gujarati medium school. She did her BA in English literature from Ahmedabad. She got her love for reading from her mother. She remained an avid reader till the final days of her life.

While doing her BA she landed a chance to model for a renowned designer. The fashion show paved the path for movies. But even there, she carved a separate niche for herself. Her anglicised beauty and fashion sense coupled with boldness made her a sex symbol in the 70s.

She was the first Indian actress to embellish the cover of Time magazine. She was paired with all the top actors of the 70s and 80s.

However, she remained unlucky in the love game. She had a string of unsuccessful relationships which gave her a lot of agonies and directed her towards drug abuse.

From a star to a recluse

But the tricks of the human brain are unfathomable. A woman known for her photographic memory became a horrible victim of schizophrenia.

Her life came shattering down as her mental illness grew. She left the glamour world to get herself treated and pursue a spiritual journey with UG Krishnamurty. Unfortunately, her precision worsened the mental ailment. She returned to India as an overweight schizophrenic who accused numerous celebrities like King Charles and Amitabh Bachchan of brewing a conspiracy to kill her.

What led her to her fall from the zenith?

Sources say her father too was schizophrenic but was thought to be possessed by djinns and never got the needed mental health treatment. Parveen inherited the same genes. Unfortunately, it was too late, when her near and dear ones recognized the signs.

The tabloids were not ready to digest the feministic freedom Parveen showed in her reel and in real life. They chose mental health as a weak spot to hurt her image. Instead of understanding her trauma, she was labelled as a snob and difficult to work with. This led her to take multiple trips abroad to get treatment.

Even her people were not ready to accept that the stunning beauty who was charmingly well-behaved and topped with nawabi etiquettes could be suffering from a severe mental illness. Her failed relationships, emotional trauma, drug abuse, and the void left by the loss of a parent were never addressed sincerely.

A lonely adieu

In her last days, Parveen became paranoid. She converted to Christianity and recorded every phone call. She also kept notes of her daily life and died all alone in her posh Mumbai apartment. Her body was discovered three days after her death.

Schizophrenia is indeed untreatable but manageable. So, could she have had a better ending?

Perhaps yes, ONLY if society can understand that

  • Anyone can have trauma or mental health issues even charming, rich, and famous people like film stars.
  • Tabloids should have some ethics
  • Remove the stigma around mental health.

About the Author

Miss Jyoti Dhiman is a seasoned content writer, copywriter, editor, and LinkedIn strategist. She is keen to work in the arena of sustainable cosmetics, eco-ethical tourism, and guilt-free fashion. She is passionate about mental health awareness and loves to blog about it.

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