Zaidi’s Book reduces Maharashtrian Gangsters , idolises Encounter Specialists

Book Review of S. Hussain Zaidi’s “Byculla to Bangkok : This Book is Simply Fantastic !

In the days of IPL and in the middle of General Elections, if a book has to keep me glued to it, it has to be a damn good one. S. Hussain Zaidi’s “Byculla to Bangkok, Mumbai’s Maharashtrian Mobsters“, a sequel to his famous previous book, “Dongri To Dubai” is in one word, “Fantastic”.

I had not even heard of “D2D”. But when given the choice to review B2B versus a fiction work, I chose B2B and I must say, I am definitely happy.

The author is an expert in investigative, crime and terror reporting, who has worked with The Asian Age, Mumbai Mirror, Mid Day and The Indian Express. Unfortunately for me, I have not read any of his previous books but now am determined to catch up with his previous works.

“Byculla to Bangkok, Mumbai’s Maharashtrian Mobsters”, referred to as B2B here onwards is an extremely well researched and well chronicled work on the Maharashtrian Mobsters of Mumbai and their political clout and subsequent retracing to safer Bangkok.

Byculla to Bangkok begins with a prologue of an event that happened on 6 May 1993, in which the famous Makadwala brothers Subhash and Ganesh Kunchikorve were encountered by the famous encounter specialists in the making Vijay Salaskar and Pradeep Sharma. It is almost like the first encounter scene in a Ram Gopal Verma movie before the title credits. The link was instant. No wonder, Zaidi has also written Black Friday, Mafia Queens of Mumbai and Headley and I.

Book Review of S. Hussain Zaidi's "Byculla to Bangkok : This Book is Simply Fantastic ! The Maharashtrian gangster book by Zaidi reduces Maharashtrian Gangsters to humans , idolizes Encounter Specialists to Gods. Exciting to read larger than life Robin-hood like figures such as Arun Gawli, Chota Rajan, makadwala brothers and many othersThe book takes us into the exciting details in the lives of the five foot nothing Emperor of Aurangabad Jail Arun Gawli or Daddy. Gawli’s political clout and acumen during the days of the mills in Mumbai is nothing short of a legend. When Gawli got murdered Legendary Trade Unionist Dr. Datta Samant, all blame came on Industrialist Sunit Khatau.

The smart, self-righteous and daredevil of a man called Amar Naik is nicknamed Raavan. Amar Naik’s brothers Ajit and Ashwin and the affectionate family bonds they shared makes us understand the Dons too are human. Ashwin’s wife Neeta and Amar’s wife Anjali too are important characters in the narrative. If we look at the story of Naiks, it truly is the revenge of the vegetable vendor’s family, who were wronged by the underworld and were not helped by the corrupt police of those days.

Sunil Sawant alias Sautya, the Shivaji fan Maratha brave heart and his evolution into “Dawood’s Killing Machine is narrated well alongside of how he plots to eliminate his best friend Pappi Shirsekar to marry his wife Unita Prajapati. Sautya and Unita are known as Mumbai’s Mickey and Mallory for their blood thirst. But Sautya lost interest in the demanding Unita and married Razia, the sister of fellow mobster Hanif Kutta and converted to Islam. A jilted Unita’s revelations forced Sautya to run away to Dubai, even though he didn’t want to leave Mumbai.

The story of Ashwin Naik is fascinating. He is the reluctant Don, a smart and intelligent engineer, he turned to the world of crime because his wife Neeta believed he wouldn’t be safe out of it due the intricate world of enmity his brother Amar had created. The happy-go-lucky family man later became enemy number 1 to Gawli and an attack left him a cripple for life. Ashwin also became a disillusioned man later when his wife Neeta had an affair with her escort and thus got her bumped off. He faced a trial in the case and spent his time in jail. After his release, he has tried to carve out an identity away from the Mafia.

Killings and counter-killings and encounter-killings litter along the way. Pro-labour leader Dr. Datta Samant killing is one of the many gruesome murders listed. Sunit Chandrakant Khatau, the top industrialist and a close friend of Gawli was eliminated by Amar Naik to avenge the attack on his brother Ashwin by Gawli’s men and the culling of Sautya in Dubai are but two of the several cold blooded killings narrated in crisp style. Vijay Salaskar’s unfortunate death during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks also is narrated within.

All along the narration, we are also come to know about the famed Mumbai locations like Dagdi Chawl, Byculla, Girangaon, Thane, Dombivili, Kalyan, the vegetable market, Sharjah, Dubai, the Mumbai Mills and personalities like C. N. Dawar, Datta Samant, Khatau, Chhota Rajan, Shakeel and Nari Khan to name a few.

The mesmerizing Afghan beauty Ayesha Qandahari ditched her devoted husband Gul in favor of the drug-lord Nari Khan and and later left Nari and moved along with a rich businessman Khalid Usman. The beauty left a trail of disaster with every man who touched her.

Vijay Salaskar’s declaration in the press-meet after the encounter of Amar Naik is a gem. In reality, the mobsters are not all trained. It is their grit, blood thirst and the vulnerability of their victims that makes them invincible. But when a trained and intelligent officer with a dedicated team confronts the wayward gangsters, they are bound to lose unless they carry enormous fire-power.

A neat interview of Chota Rajan given to Harinder Baweja is included in the chapter “Of Gangsters, Guns and Ganpati”. The book also deals with the corrupt Mumbai Police of the yore and the upright officers like Hasan Ghafoor, Commissioner Amarjeet Singh Samra, Salaskar and the controversial ones like Ram Dev Tyagi. Tyagi’s philosophy that gangsters understand only the language of fear and not peace helped Encounter Specialists like Daya Nayak and Ravindra Angre to flourish.

Though the strategy of Tyagi, “Shoot first, talk later” worked well for the embattled Mumbai Police initially, at some stage it was becoming an obsession and needed a curb. There also is an impartial look at the Human Rights Activists meddling into the encounter killings. The book concludes with “The End of Encounter Elite” where the present state of Vijay Salaskar, Ravindra Angre and Pradeep Sharma are narrated. There also is a long list of acknowledgements and sources.

Overall, “Byculla to Bangkok, Mumbai’s Maharashtrian Mobsters” is a very well organized chronicle on the Mumbai Mafia and definitely more than a worth read. I do believe though, that almost each of the multitude of characters in the book deserve a separate book.

I managed to read this book in spite of a travel to native place, some illness, elections and IPL. This simply means — The Book is simply addictive.

My Rating : 4 out of 5 Stars

Book Details:

Byculla to Bangkok “Mumbai’s Maharashtrian Mobsters”
First published in February 2014
Author: S Hussain Zaidi
HarperCollins Publishers
Printed and bound in India by Thomson Press India Ltd.
277 Pages, soft-cover
Price: Rs. 299/-