THE book, as the writer puts it, a jugalbandi of two youngsters who came from the ill-famed Dongri locality of Mumbai. They grew up together but never met each other till one day when the author, Aabid Surti, meets the other, Sufi or Iqbal Rupani, at his cousin’s nikaah ceremony.
“The book is a result of a series of relentless interviews an investigation conducted over the course of two years (1989-90) into the golden period of gold smuggling. The boys grew up in the murky lanes of Dongri, but one is attracted to light while darkness engulfs the other. One turns to be a creative artist while the other becomes an invisible member of the underworld. Both studied at the same school, both were favourite students of the distinguished teacher Sheikh Hasan, recipient of the covet Padmashri award. Both harboured the same ambition – to study and succeed in life.”
“Both become adults. Neither is interested in marriage. They know it is difficult for struggling young men to meet the responsibilities of married life. However adverse conditions compel them into marriage. Their wives bear the same name. They even belong to the same clan.”
They grew up amidst poverty and deprivation and lose their father very early in life, thus having the burden of providing for their family.
The book traces the life of Iqbal as he struggles to eke out a living and falls into the trap of smuggling and big money. Even though he is committing illegal acts, his mind forgives him as the will of God. The book traces his struggles from a small school boy trying to first earn an honest living by selling chikkis on the roadside to starting an illegal liquor brewery, to becoming a shrewd big time mafia leader. He often tries to escape from the dangerous and murky world of crime again and again but falls back. “God wanted him to follow the path of righteousness. Was it necessary to taste the forbidden fruit?” he often felt.
“Varda and Mastan led very parallel lives. Mastan had left his studies mid-way due to poverty. Varda had left the Koliwada municipal school for similar reasons.” Later they both joined the docks. “Mastan had already started bootlegging, working as a coolie. He enjoyed the patronage of influential people of the metropolis.
“Both of us have struggled hard against hunger. Yet, both parted ways and made tracks in diametrically opposite directions.
An engrossing peep into the making and functioning of the underworld.
(Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd, X-30, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-II, New Delhi-110 020; [email protected])