Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 08/14/15 10:21 AM

Book review: Byculla to Bangkok by S Hussain Zaidi

S Hussain Zaidi is back with yet another unputdownable account of the Mumbai gang world. A sequel to his `Dongri to Dubai,` Byculla to Bangkok traces the rise and fall of homegrown mafia capos like Arun Gawli, Amar Naik, his well educated younger sibling Ashwin Naik, Santosh Shetty, et al. The book gets off to a great start with a car chase and .38 weapons fired relentlessly, the chapters are brief and succinct, the pictures drawn are clear and compelling.

The saga continues to be one of truly fearsome dons, wannabes, molls, khabris, intrigue, betrayal, wine, women, Bollywood and song, blood, gore, encounter killings, but in between, there is a concise potted history of the mills of south central Mumbai; the rise of the Shiv Sena and their complex relations with the gang lords; the day of the encounter specialist and his eventual eclipse, and how murder was a cottage industry not too long ago. Zaidi puts a considerable cache of collated information at the reader’s disposal and there are some priceless insights into the working patterns of these men, as well as their mindsets, one such snippet being that criminals are usually devout, almost obsessively religious.

Zaidi calls Byculla India’s Palermo, terms Girangaon the next Kurukshetra. The gangsters featured here all graduate from street ruffians to real mafia men with Glock pistols and AK47s always to hand. It also makes clear just how hard the Mumbai police work, round the clock, putting their lives at considerable risk. It would seem that for every two corrupt policemen, there is one who is doing his/her duty diligently.

The errors of syntax which the first book had in plenty, rears up here too. `Sarmalkar was a hardcore criminal who boasted gang members like the Pandeys…`; `slicing Sridhar down…`; `he gave daggers-drawn looks…`; `backstabbed him…`; `marked him down…`; `the new players would come from the money of Girangaon` but in this instance, they just add to the story’s raw and very earthy appeal, as do somewhat startling statements like `she violated one of the cardinal principles of the underworld – no lingering after fingering`; ` the gang was so bloodthirsty that it was said they did not get a good night’s sleep until they had killed an innocent man, woman or child` ; `the bulge in the policeman’s trousers had nothing to do with the blood coursing through his manhood.`

A crackling good read. It’s a parallel universe which continues to hold us the aam janta, in thrall. Unfortunately, the book jacket is as bad as the first one, more suited to pulp fiction of a lesser grade.


Byculla to BangkokDawood IbrahimMumbai underworldS Hussain Zaidi

Sheila Kumar • August 14, 2015

Previous Post

Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *