Book Review: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: S. Hussain Zaidi

Having co-authored non-fiction book, I am often asked “why non-fiction”? – People who ask me this question normally do so in 2 parts:

  1. “Why did you chose to write a non-fiction book?” – And then I tell them that the reason is because I primarily read non-fiction.
  2. “So, why do you read non-fiction?” – is the obvious next question that usually follows.

My reasons for preferreing non-fiction as a genre couldn’t be represented with an example better than in the form of a book I was recently recommended by a colleague – Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories Of Women From The Ganglands. Written by S. Hussain Zaidi (author of Black Friday: The true story of the Bombay Blasts) along with Jane Borges the book contains riveting details spanning the entire crime landscape of Mumbai.

While knowledge of the “male” ganglords of the city are fairly public and commonly covered in print journalism and celluloid (the film Company, starring Ajay Devgan, being a case in point), the women of the underworld were a considerably lesser known species. Seasoned crime journalist Zaidi has conducted visibly in-depth research to come up with what can be conclusively called a ready-reckoner on the species.

From “Gangubai”, the iconic self-proclaimed but widely accepted matriarch of Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light area to the wives of Hindo Dons and aides of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan, this book profiles the women who were often not at the fore of all the “action” yet had as critical a role to play as the men themselves. The bok contains 7 chapters – 6 of them dedicated to 6 stories and one of them containing a collection of really short stories (character sketches, really) of the women being discussed.

When a seasoned player like Zaidi writes on a subject, the sense of authority shows. This is one of the points that particularly interest me about non-fiction as a genre. They are usually less imaginative, and more real. They are based on fact-based research and are represented in a manner that leaves a lot to be inferred, and hence concluded, by the reader.

I would definitely give it a “read” recommendation. After all, as film-maker Vishal Bharadwaj states in the Foreword: “Crime is juicier than spirituality.”

Author: S. Hussain Zaidi with Jane Borges;
Publisher: Tranquebar Press; 308 pages;
Price: Rs. 250; Genre: Non-Fiction

Popular God

One of the advantages of belonging to a pious, religious family is that you get to visit temples everytime you travel with family. My mom recently came to spend a few days with me in Mumbai – where I’ve recently moved in. Needless to say, a visit to the Siddhi Vinayak temple was on our list of ‘places to see’ before she left the city.


 
That set me thinking about how temples in India are iconic places – and sometimes how these icons of worship attain iconic status based on popular beleifs like ‘Yahan maangi hui mannat poori ho jaati hai” (Whatever you wish for at this temple will be granted). A visit to the Official Website of the SiddhiVinayak Temple throws up this interesting oiece of information about the temple’s history:

The idea of the construction of the temple struck to Late Mrs. Deubai Patel during the prayer time, she humbly requested Lord Ganesh and said, “Although I cannot have a child, let other ladies who are childless get the pleasure of child on visiting the temple and praying you”. Looking at successful subsequent history of the temple, it appears like the Lord Ganesh nodded to this humble request and pious thoughts and deeds of Late Deubai Patil. It is, therefore, this Siddhivinayak is famous for it and known as “Navasacha Ganapati” or “Navasala Pavanara Ganapati” in Marathi (Ganapati bestows whenever humbly genuinely prayed a wish) among devotees. 

In many cases, the “popularity” of a place of worship depends on who (and the ‘whos who?’) has visited that temple. For instance, the imagery of Amitabh Bachchan and family visiting the Siddhi Vinayak Temple has been so deeply etched in the minds of the God-fearing section of the Indian populace, that (in many ways), the identity of the place itself is synonymous with the Demi-God of Indian Cinema. In fact, the taxi driver who drove us down to the temple couldn’t stop speaking about the crowd and media-following that Amitabh (& family) got when decided to talk down to the temple from their place in Juhu.

So much for Gods and Demi-Gods.. Yet it is these anecdotes of a rich heritage and a proud culture that keeps us going.

Ganpati Bappa… MORYA!

The Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai

I am at Prithvi Theatre Cafe right now. And my friend – who happens to be a regular here (and who thought I “shoud definitely come here before I leave Mumbai”) is with me and is going to share 11 reasons why this place is special:
1. The Chinese lampshades – theatrical!
2. Colourful
3. Greenery around – not totally civilized
4. Kadak Chai!
5. Random visits by Makrand Deshpande and Kay Kay Menon
6. The people who serve – they dont bug you – you can sit around for hours! 
7. This is a proper “adda” place – where you can make a lot of memories
8. On one of the tables there is actually a chess-board and ludo painted on the table! (Interrupted by Amit: “This is the COOLest coffee-table I have ever seen!)
9. Extremely informal – It IS an intellectual place – but it is “ok” if YOU’re not intellectual!
10. Peace! 🙂
11. And, of Course, the LOGo!
… Oh, And I just realized I’ve become a lot “cooler” after I got here .. Pun intended! 😉
About Prithvi Theatre
 
According to the website – “PRITHVI THEATRE is an intimate theatre auditorium, built in 1978, and dedicated to being a catalyst for theatre. Set in the heart of Mumbai’s suburbs, the theatre with its open-air café is a warm, inviting space, a relaxed hangout and a vital breathing space in the bustling city of Mumbai.”I am at Prithvi Theatre Cafe right now. And my friend – who happens to be a regular here (and who thought I “shoud definitely come here before I leave Mumbai”) is with me and is going to share 11 reasons why this place is special:

I am at Prithvi Theatre Cafe right now. And my friend – who happens to be a regular here (and who thought I “should definitely come here before I leave Mumbai”) is with me and is going to share 11 reasons why this place is special:

1. The Chinese lampshades – theatrical!
2. Colourful
3. Greenery around – not totally civilized
4. Kadak Chai!
5. Random visits by Makrand Deshpande and Kay Kay Menon
6. The people who serve – they dont bug you – you can sit around for hours! 
7. This is a proper “adda” place – where you can make a lot of memories
8. On one of the tables there is actually a chess-board and ludo painted on the table!  (Psst!: “This is th COOLest coffee-table I have ever seen!”)
9. Extremely informal – It IS an intellectual place – but it is “ok” if YOU’re not intellectual!
10. Peace! 
11. And, of Course, the LOGO!

… Oh, And I just realized I’ve become a lot “cooler” after I got here .. Pun intended! 😉

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About Prithvi Theatre  

A Stamp containing thr Prithvi LOGO - Released in 1995 to commemorate the 50 years of Prithvi theatre
A Stamp containing the Prithvi LOGO - Released in 1995 to commemorate the 50 years of Prithvi Theatre (the performing troupe)

 

 

PRITHVI THEATRE is an intimate theatre auditorium, built in 1978, and dedicated to being a catalyst for theatre. Set in the heart of Mumbai’s suburbs, the theatre with its open-air café is a warm, inviting space, a relaxed hangout and a vital breathing space in the bustling city of Mumbai.

It is named after Prithvi Raj Kapoor (a noted pioneer of Indian theatre), belongs to the Kapoor family and is currently being run by Ms. Sanjana Kapoor.

Check out the Offician Website.