I've fallen in love with crime journalist turned author, S. Hussain Zaidi's work, ever since I read Black Friday when I was in the tenth grade. I had just vaguely read and heard about the 1993 blasts and Dawood Ibrahim. So when I found the book, the blurb was so interesting. Also, blame Bollywood movies; I always loved gangster movies and reading a real life story seemed very fascinating. Well, I read the book. A few years later, I also read Dongri To Dubai and Mumbai Avengers (though it was fiction) and loved both. And picked up Mafia Queens of Mumbai sometime then. I don't exactly remember for how long it has been lying unread in my little personal library, but I knew I had to read it before I saw Haseena Parkar - though only after reading the book did I realise it has no mention of her.
Well, did I mention I love Bollywood movies. I was super excited for the release of Daddy and Haseena Parkar. I did manage to watch Daddy just a day after its release, but somehow couldn't watch Haseena. Blame it on work priorities and less shows at Inox. I somehow believed (rather assumed) a bit about Haseena would feature in Mafia Queens of Mumbai and was adamant on reading it before I saw the movie. So well, today was the day! The firecrackers from last night's burning of Narkasura effigies had given me sleepless night. Well, Diwali celebrations in Goa are different you see. So I woke up late, had a nice breakfast and was wondering what to do on a holiday. We journalists don't get off days. Like we don't get offs on public holidays since we have an edition the next day. But I had an off for Diwali and spent the entire day reading this book.
It's 7.19 pm as I type this on my phone, still trying to compose myself and get over the book that I just finished reading. This non-fiction work featuring stories of women from the ganglands in Mumbai, by S. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges - Mafia Queens of Mumbai, is a gripping eight chapter book, which narrates vivid true stories of thirteen women involved in the crime syndicate that is often referred to as the Mumbai mafia. These are stories of all the strong willed women who carved a niche for themselves in underworld that's usually considered a man's territory.
The book is gripping. But it's so delightful, I didn't want the read to end. I took little breaks after every heavy chapter to let it soak in. Zaidi and Borges seamlessly narrate the story of the shrewd Jenabai Daaruwali who made notorious ganglands like Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim bow down to her. Then there was the melancholic tale of a window looking for revenge for her dead husband from none other than Dawood Ibrahim. Then there's this brilliant narration of the life of Gangubai, who fought for the existence and importance of sex workers. They have even included an entire chapter on the Narco Empress. There are tales of the wives of Hindu dons, who shed their timid selves and turned into conniving, ambitious, competitive and sharp women who took over the gang and ran the empire while the husbands were serving jail terms or in hiding. Yes, it includes a bit on Asha Gawli too, which came as a surprise, considering she was totally sidelined in Daddy.
Every bit of the book is so visual and engaging, it's more like watching a Bollywood movie with all its wicked turns and twists. What I also loved is none of the stories glorify the mafia queens or romanticise their exploits. It's just a reportage of how these women pushed boundaries and sustained in the dominant world. I'm sure you've never read about these women before, because, after all, all the focus is on the men in the underworld. This book has just offered us an insight into lives of women who have been a part of the murky side of the city of Mumbai, walking along side, sometimes leafing and manipulating men in the underworld to run their own illegal businesses. They are legends in their own right, and through Mafia Queens of Mumbai, the authors have succeeded in documenting these lives for curious readers like me. I'm thoroughly impressed and looking to read some more! Super excited to read My name is Abu Salem.
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