(My bookish tryst with the ganglands of Mumbai...as seen through the works of S. Hussain Zaidi)
Okay, so I have been reading a lot of S. Hussain Zaidi’s works – all about the Mumbai ganglands. And my intense struggle to be able to express my experience of reading them will be absolutely clear through this post.
The itch of reading Zaidi began some few years ago when I saw the movie ‘Black Friday’, directed by Anurag Kashyap and based on Zaidi’s book by the same name. It claimed to essay the real story behind the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. The movie was superbly made and executed. Needless to say, it remains one of my all time favourites. Considering the guts with which the film was made (taking real names, not aliases unlike many other real-incident based movies and many more points which I shall not elaborate here and hence digress) maintaining a safe ground, I was very sure that the book had much more to offer than what could be seen on the silver screen. And I was right.
But I was to realise this just a few days ago. That is when I finally read the book. My introduction to Zaidi’s writings turned out to be far too impressive than I could have imagined. Impressive may not be an appropriate word here, actually. Stunned, maybe. My thought process stopped and entered a new realm. This, as soon as I realised that what I was reading was not a work of fiction but a picture of real life (which I suspect is still not the complete picture). This book was “Mafia Queens of Mumbai”. I don’t know how it made me feel. Angry? Surprised? Proud? Ashamed? Zealous? Thoughtful? ... maybe ‘All of the Above and more’. I tried my best to not involve my soul into the book but I failed miserably. Zaidi was far too talented in writing it down the way he did.
I was reading something like this for the first time. Leave alone fiction. Man, this was real stuff. Real women. Real situations. So my mind did not know how to respond. This was a new stimulus. I may have heard about, read about (and even interacted with) quite a few from the notorious class, but none were women. Of all the accounts he presented, Sapna didi was the one that hit me the most. (to know more, read the book). It was not so much about women being part of the mafia. It was more about the process, the function, the intentions. Besides, the intricate details of the underworld that Zaidi reflected, gave much fodder for thought. And there began the urge for more...
The next day itself (thanks to Flipkart), I got hold of his book – “Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia” – which left me even more dumbfounded. Each page made me more and more speechless. As I read the accounts of the most dreaded gangsters that once had Mumbai under siege, I was stunned. Stories of people rising to power in the mafia, internal and external gangwars, expansion into different forms of illegal trade, ruthless killings, cold blooded murders, uncountable monies, knives and guns, bollywood actresses, models, sleaze and all that... took me to a point of (should I say) absolute silence and stillness...? This was beyond reaction.
What was more difficult to digest was that this was actually happening in my city, in a timeline parallel to mine, and in a fashion that it did not really affect my everyday life. Or so I thought. Little did I realise that this was not the case. This is the innate problem found in largesse among the youth of Mumbai that they can feel only those ‘issues’ that can be seen and measured. What lies beneath, nobody knows and nobody cares. And those who know do not dare. But the opening it created in my thought process was beyond comprehension. This book will now be transformed on screen as ‘Shootout at Wadala’. But I am sure we’ll get to see a very sublime version.
Finally I knew it was high time I read “Black Friday”. And it is, like I thought, much more than the film. I am still reading it but could not hold myself anymore from writing this post. I started writing this post sometime in April this year when I first read Mafia Queens... but I couldn’t. It had to happen today. I won’t enumerate on Black Friday since I am not done reading it. Writing anything would be as incomplete as reading half the book. So just go ahead and read it. And let me know how you felt.
What I learnt in totality from these readings and my life experiences is impossible to narrate here. It might just create the space for a book in itself. But I strongly recommend all of you strong-hearted people to go ahead and read all his three books and give yourself a never-before experience.
Reading Tip: Try and read between the lines...