S. Hussain Zaidi is no writer – he is an accomplished crime journalist and has a vast knowledge of Mumbai underworld – but he is no writer. And this book further proves this argument why crime journalist should never try to be a writer when he does not have enough content for the book. That’s our viewpoint, though he is well respected in the reading community and even Bollywood. The foreword of the book is by the accomplished director Vishal Bharadwaj, and Rani Mukerjee launched the book.
First thing first: “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” is no “Dhongri to Dubai” or “Black Friday” (Zaidi’s other books). We wonder if Zaidi was under immense pressure to finish the book that he just decided to call a bunch of women “mafia queens” because of their associations with “male” gangsters. Nonetheless, some stories are fascinating- specially the one of a prostitute (wish Zaidi had just focused on two or three such stories).
“You might think that we enjoy doing what we do. Believe me, it is not easy for us…Just like jawans of our country, who fight endlessly in the battlefield so that you remain unharmed, we prostitutes too, are fighting our own battles everyday…By giving ourselves to the carnal pursuits of men, we are doing a big favour to all women in society. A few handful of women who cater to the physical needs of men are actually protecting all of you from being attacked. These women help blunt the bestial male aggression…”
That is Gangubai for you. Gangubai- a girl from a conservative Gujarati family turned popular prostitute who knew how to please her customers turned most powerful “madam” of the brothel of Kamathipura. (Kamathipura is the largest red-light area in Mumbai, where many women are forced into prostitution; they are often sold by their family at an early age and often face long-term physical and emotional abuse, battle drug addictions and diseases). The book portrays her as a powerful, smart, brave, shrewd but golden-hearted madam of the brothel. So powerful she became while fighting for causes of sex workers that she actually challenged then Prime Minister of India- Jawahar Lal Nehru. The book reveals Nehru suggested her to settle down, and she asked if Nehru would marry her.
Born in a conservative Gujrati family, Gangubai ended up in the brothel after her lover sold her for a few bucks. Betrayed by the love she trusted the most, she accepted her fate and became the prostitute. One event changed her status- she impressed gangster Karim Lala with her boldness and made him her “rakhi” brother. Her association with Karim Lala made her powerful, and her own ability, shrewdness and more important her fight for the rights of prostitutes made her the most respected and influential “madam” of Kamathipura brothel.
Apart from Gangubai, there are other women in Zaidi’s book. Sapna Didi- a female “gangster” determined to kill Dawood Ibrahim to avenge the death of her husband. Obviously she could not (Zaidi’s another book “Dhongri to Dubai” claims Dawood is still in Pakistan), and she was brutally murdered by Dawood’s men at the end. Jennabai – the most powerful female gangster of the 70s that had potential to bring rival gangs in one room. Additionally, there are stories of other half baked, poorly researched stories of gangsters’ wives and molls.
The weakest story of the book is that of Monica Bedi- an actress from the 90s who turned out to be gangster Abu Salem’s girlfriend. The book portrays her as a poor innocent girl who did not know Abu Salem was a gangster, and when she came to know it was too late because she was already in love. Phew – are we to believe whatever Monica Bedi is saying today to save her image? Personally, I felt, Zaidi failed as a journalist with this story!
So read the book if you are looking for weekend masala with a cup of chai…else give it a pass! We would love to hear your comments!
Recommended Blogs / Articles:
We are fascinated with the author though; here are links to his interviews:
- Conversation with the journalist – http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/a-conversation-with-author-and-journalist-s-hussain-zaidi/?_r=0
- Conversation with the journalist by a blogger – http://idiva.com/interviews-work-life/meet-these-lady-dons-from-the-underworld/4645/1
- The grand launch of the book – Mafia Queens with Bollywood Glamor – Vishal Bharadwaj and Rani Mukherjee – http://www.missmalini.com/2011/05/07/vishal-bhardwaj-and-rani-mukerji-at-the-mafia-queens-of-mumbai-book-launch/
Kamathipura – the largest red-light area in Mumabi
- Story of a woman who managed to send her daughter to New York to study – http://www.mid-day.com/lifestyle/2013/jun/020613-shweta-katti-interviews-kamathipura-new-york-bard-college.htm
- A heart breaking story of a courageous woman from Nepal, currently working a prostitute – http://www.mensxp.com/special-features/today/7070-i-wont-leave-kamathipura-till-i-die-my-world-your-world.html
- Stories in pictures of the “Sisters of Kamathipura”, a must see – http://helenrimell.photoshelter.com/gallery/-/G0000Xx51UmsnoTs/
- Photographs from Kamathipura – http://aparnathewayfarer.blogspot.in/2013/07/one-night-in-kamathipura.html
Read more about Sapna Didi and her like:
- A tale of women dons – http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/1007937/report-when-didis-took-over-dadagiri
- Excerpt from Sapna Didi’s life – http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main49.asp?filename=hub020411IT_IS.asp