Mumbai is haven to all kinds of activities?both good and bad. The author of the book, a crime reporter, knows it all for he has spent long hours talking to those in uniform, those in flashy clothes from the underworld and those who have shifty eyes and peculiar gait, that is, those in the grey zone and who work as police informers. Hence the author cannot be blamed when he says that Mumbai ?on the surface and off it,? in the twisted lanes and crowded mohallas of Pydhonie and Dongri, spawns a dream a minute?dreams that have a language and character of their own??dark, ruthless and wildly exciting?.
He seems all the more right because undoubtedly no one raises as much as an eyebrow when the son of a police constable becomes a bhai, or a small-time tea-stall holder starts calling the shots in his neighbourhood. There'sone thread running in their life story?the power and ambition to be Big Daddy; the Godfather. This holds true of Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Maya Dolas and Dawood Ibrahim.
The author, as a journalist on crime beat, has had a long association with both the law-keepers and the underworld dons. He has spent long hours with them as also the police informers. All kinds of names and numbers are used by the underworld to warn their compatriots about cops, rivals, extortion, rewards and even big bosses or to send the police or an adversary on a wild goose chase.
Everybody?the don, the police and the informer are engaged in their dhanda. ?The rules here are straight and the ethics sacrosanct. Entrepreneurship and new ways to beat the system are the skills that are honed to perfection over the years,? says the author. The underworld courts danger and death and what is more, the author has seen four of his sources in the underworld die either to police bullets or due to inter-gang rivalry.
Talking about the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai where most of the country'sdreaded gangsters, psychopaths and economic offenders are housed, the author says that hundreds of sinister plots are hatched here within the four walls of the egg-shaped barrack called Anda. When a gangster is about to be arrested, he warns his associates by saying, ?Accident ho gaya (I have had an accident); if he is arrested, he says, ?Admit ho gaya (I have been admitted). These are signals to warn his associate that cops will be on his trail soon. Atthais (28) is an abbreviation for alcoholics in the underworld. Used mostly in Dhongri and Bhendi Bazaar areas of south Mumbai, the word originated in the late 1950s during a game of words called (China peti). Bada kala coat often refers to a judge. Baja (musical instrument) is used to refer to a handgun; bakri (goat) stands for a car; batla refers to one who is short; vasuli means smuggling; cheetah or peti means one lakh rupees; chattis ka akada or 36 means not on good terms with someone.
The author discusses nearly all the notorious gangsters. Babloo Srivastava could not make it big in Mumbai. His gang tried to kidnap a businessman named Vishwanath Mittal, but the mission failed because the gang'scontact goofed up. Chhota Rajan was the undisputed king of north Mumbai after he took over the reins of his elder brother'sgang.
This is a book which gives short notes on most notorious members of the underworld gangs and is necessary information to some extent for the police as they can then identify the don.
The underworld actively courts danger and death. In many ways it has conquered the fears that many of us, mere mortals, face. The short notes at the end are vibrant and dynamic.
(Jaico Publishing House, 121 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai-400 001.)