Friday, January 28, 2005

Unclaimed Body No 16

". . . From the reigning sex symbol of Bollywood in the 1970s, all that identifies Parveen Wali Mohammad Khan Babi alias Parveen Babi (55) as she lies in the Cooper hospital morgue, is the tag on her toe left by the police — Token No 62.

Given her status as a yesteryear film star, the only luxury afforded to her in the morgue is a trolley on which her body lies.

The other 15 unclaimed bodies are of persons involved in road and train accidents and have been packed in broken wooden boxes in the next room.

“We will wait for seven days for someone to claim her body,” said Amitav Gupta, deputy commissioner of police. Under the law, the husband and the children have the first claim on a woman’s dead body, followed by parents.

If they are dead, siblings can also claim the body. If no surviving relatives are willing to claim the body, friends can apply to the police and claim the body to conduct the funeral rites. In case no genuine claims are received in seven days, the police will bury the body.

As of Saturday night, there were two claimants to the body. Late comedian Mehmood’s younger brother Anwar Mehmood. “She was like a sister,” Anwar told the police.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who had a relationship with the actress, also said, “I have just sent a message to Javed Ahmed that in case no one claims her body and it doesn’t legally violate any clauses, I will give her a dignified funeral. I only met her mother when she was alive and I did hear of a distant cousin, but I don’t know of any other relationship that she had.”

The body of the actress was discovered by the police in Palm Beach Rivera building flat, Juhu on Saturday afternoon, after the neighbours complained of foul stench emitting from the seventh floor flat.

ACP Gahininath Nimgaonkar of Zone Nine said that the police had to use duplicate keys to enter the flat. “We discovered the body of Parveen Babi, who was dressed casually in off-white long shorts and a top, lying face up in the bedroom. There were no signs of any struggle or foul play. She had a bandage on her left foot, that she had put on, to treat her gangrene which had resulted from a long ailment of diabetes."

“There were untouched newspapers, eggs and milk lying outside the door for the last two days. Initially we did not take the issue very seriously as Babi was a recluse and would often be locked inside the flat for days without interacting with anyone. Our concern grew when no one responded to the doorbell,” said M S Malhotra, a fourth-floor resident.

Malhotra added that in the last 20 years, she must have seen the actress not more than 15 times. “We all knew that Babi was suffering from psychological problems. [Parveen Babi suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.] Things took a turn for the worst when she lost her mother, who was her sole companion, a couple of years ago. In the last couple of months, she could barely walk, even with the aid of crutches,” she said.

Babi had been living alone ever since and had refused to appoint even a maidservant to do the household chores, evident from the mess in her flat.

Even the staff of Juhu police station, often harassed by calls from Babi, would not have anticipated her lonely demise. The actress was notorious for calling the police at all hours, complaining that her former co-stars were tormenting her. “Once she had also complained that the CIA was out to get her,” said senior inspector Shyam Chavan of Juhu police station. The calls had substantially reduced in recent times.

“Prima facie, the death seems to have occurred 24 hours before her body was discovered as it shows initial signs of decomposition,” said forensic doctors Dr Shivaji Kachre and Dr B S Shinde who conducted the autopsy. “She has a diabetic gangrene on her left foot,” the doctor added.

The autopsy also found alcohol content in her stomach and the viscera has been sent for a chemical analysis report to rule out foul play, the doctor said. The cause of the death has now been kept reserved. “Her right leg was swollen and her face puffed. This indicates that her kidney, liver and other vital organs had stopped functioning,” said Dr Kachre, “Her heart was abnormal.”


I don't know how many of the readers here would know who Parveen Babi was. If you've seen Deewaar or Amar Akbar Anthony, she's the lady with Amitabh Bachchan. Parveen Babi was quite a name in her day, a very attractive lady who projected a sort of bohemian, free-spirited identity. Or at least that's what the press made her out to be and the public bought it. No one knew the truth of her schizophrenia until after she'd left acting and moved out of the public eye. By then people had found other faces to adore and other images to aspire to and were quite content to leave Parveen Babi to deal with her own demons. It's disgusting really how we reduce other people to satisfy our own desires.


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