Once the home to actress Parveen Babi, a dilapidated haveli in Junagadh awaits deliverance
The haveli is one among the seven grand buildings that once housed Junagadh’s Babi royalty
Junagadh’s Diwan Square takes you to a narrow lane behind a swanky building complex. A dilapidated arch welcomes you with its vanishing grandeur that is marred by a couple of overflowing garbage bins. Puppies play around joyfully.
Behind the bins is a corrugated locked gate that leads to a haveli which is one among the seven grand buildings that once housed Junagadh’s Babi royalty. The blue-blooded family is long gone. Some say they escaped to Pakistan during Partition. However, the locals here remember one name from the families that stayed here for long and a female lead that once mesmerised film buffs. The late Parveen Babi grew up in this locality and got her education in the city before moving out to the then Bombay for modelling, which was followed by her debut in Bollywood.
Tourists who gather some knowledge about Babi beforehand are directed to this Muslim dominated area, to see for themselves the haveli—locked and without a caretaker. A row of shops run in the front of the haveli. Some government offices are also operational. The employees there welcome us on a condition that they will not be photographed. However, they allow us to peep out of a broken wall to take a long shot of Parveen Babi’s haveli which stands opposite.
One of the shopkeepers, Pankajbhai Vediya, has a workshop that moulds silver into small temples and decorative pieces that adorn the religious places. He claims his is the only shop in Junagadh that has expertise in this type work.
When we ask him about the late actor, he says, “Yes, she is our city’s daughter and we are proud of her. I have seen her when I was a child... I think I was 15 then. My father had seen her playing here. I remember her attending a marriage in the family. The haveli has been locked for the past 20-22 years,” Pankajbhai says. He remembers Babi’s cousin and aunt staying in the haveli. “The cousin went away after his mother died. Parveen had kept her a car here for the local commute. Nobody knows where that vehicle is now,” he adds.
Some people tell us that Babi had willed to donate her property in Mumbai and Junagadh and her savings for the welfare of the underprivileged women and children from the Babi community in Jamnagar. A share of that went to her paternal uncle through a court decision, we’re told. Babi had died alone in her Juhu flat on January 22, 2005. Some said there are reports of a trust being formed to execute her will, but mid-day could not verify it independently. Some savings were to be donated to a college in Ahmedabad where the actor had done her post graduation.