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Friday, February 23, 2018

Commenting on a Review for developing a review: An Attempt

A review of Dongri to Dubai: Six decades of the Mumbai Mafia by S. Hussain Zaidi.

The First Look at the Book:
This post is a comment on the review of a book by Aditya Menon published in India Today in May 2012. The name of the book in question is "Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia". The book is written by S. Hussain Zaidi.

 Aditya Menon has titled the review of this book as "The Don's Story."

On the title page itself, there is a comment by Anil Kapoor. Hopefully, the name of the person mentioned is that of the film actor from Mumbai. The comment attributed to him states that it was the far best book on the Mumbai mafia. Is Anil Kapoor an authority on the Mumbai mob?

Another comment attributed to one Sanjay Gupta, who probably is the producer states that the film Shootout at Wadala was produced because of the information provided in the book under review. There is no doubt that one you read the first section of the book, you may undergo the feeling as if you are reading a story of a film. The text reads like as movie in a book.

The book was first published in 2012 by Roli Books Pvt limited, New Delhi.

Why did I get this book?

I am a student of History. My area of interest is Indian History. It does not mean that I read only about India. A history student studies the humanity as a whole. A history student does not belong to a particular nation, society, religion and other similar forces working in human society. When I read the history of other regions, I come across many studies which are of the crime and related issues. In case of the history of the USA, one can find many papers on the role of Mafia, the crime pattern and associated legislative debates. In India, you see such topics only in case of the research papers presented in the field of politics, law, public administration, police administration (it is now a separate faculty in many universities) or journalism. Therefore, there was always a feeling that something was missing while reading about the Indian society while reading history as defined by the universities. The general narrative is about the social groups, economic tensions, caste divide, development in legislation and other issues which are built on such conceptual framework that a common man does not recognise them in his daily life. There are such theoretical frameworks that are understood only by academicians. However, there are many topics which are missing from the history of India. On the other hand, if one reads the newspaper or watch television, there are reports and programmes related to crime. One does not find academicians discussing it as the part of the pursuit of the activities of humanity, especially among historians.

I have collected many books on crime and mafia related to the USA. It was a casual search with a search term 'mafia of India' that I came across by the book authored by S. Hussain Zaidi. I bought it on Amazon. I also purchased another title by the same author, and it is Mafia Queens of Mumbai which he had co-authored with Jane Borgs.

A new approach for writing a review

This time I have adopted a new approach to write this review. I am commenting on review by Aditya Menon to write the report of the book.

I am least interested in writing a review. My urge is to write, and I write what I want to write. For me, reading and then writing on what I have learned is an exercise which is similar to taking food and then going to gym to keep my body healthy. To keep my brain healthy, I read and then write. Mere reading does not make your mind healthy. It makes you iller if you do only that part of the act. You must write also. It is a simple rule. You go for input and then give output. Then check and compare it. Now, to make it relevant and make these activities meaningful on a blog, I have borrowed the term 'Review' because the knowledgeable people consider it useful in that manner.

I generally write whatsoever comes to my mind while reading something. Most of the reviews which I have written here are usually a spontaneous outpouring after completing a reading. During reading, I also write some comments on the book. I definitely incorporate them into the post. I write then read it; make some addition and deletions by consulting the notes which I have written and finally look out for spelling and grammar check. However, while writing this post, I did not write many notes. I marked many highlights and comments on the information provided by Zaidi. The book is so gripping that you do not want to stop and pick a pen. You continue to read from one chapter to other if you are not forced to leave it by the exigencies of your existence.

After completing the reading, instead of writing straightaway, I went for a search of the reviews written by people about this book. I had already noted that this book was published in 2012. During reading, or preferably at the closing chapters of the book in the Sections Sources and Acknowledgements, the writer himself had written that he started the work on this work in 2004. He was not sure that about the year itself. He has written that he began to write it in 2004-2005. He declared there that he completed it in 2011. It is quite evident from the Epilogue section in the book that he had finished this book after May 2011. He had also mentioned that the quantity of material which was collected for this book, he would have continued for some more years before he gave the final touch to this book. One can fully appreciate that after reading his book.

I had read this book in about a week. You have to attend to your own work also, therefore, I took that much time. Some reviewers had commented that they completed the reading in three days. Well, the book is such that you can do it or the contents may force you to read it in one sitting to complete the reading of 377 page out of 378. You must read this book from the title to the end to fully appreciate the quality of the work. Out of many reviews, I have selected one review Aditya Menon which appeared in May 2012 in India Today, and the link is

The book:

As I have already mentioned that this book is spread over 378 pages in Kindle format. The copy which I have used is in the composition of the novel template, and the digital format reads 6677 locations on my computer.

The book is divided into two sections viz. Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 1 contains 35 chapters. The writer has written about the background of the Mumbai Underworld as it developed in post-Independent India. He has started with the life of Haji Mastan, traced his survival and growth, substantiated it with some photographs; while determining the rise and maturity of Karim Lala, Varadarajan Mudaliar and writing the chapter titled 'The Baap of Dons' while tracing the origin of Dawood Ibrahim.

Part 2 contains 28 chapters. The Part 2, is exclusively about Dawood Ibrahim and his minions.

The book closes with four more sections which are titled Epilogue, Sources, Index and Acknowledgements. They are also the inseparable part of the book. If one skips those sections, then he does not know the whole book and can not comment on the book. Here, I believe that Aditya Menon has faulted.

In index section, the book qualifies for the rank of academic work. However, the way it appears in a digital format, it is not correct. Secondly, it has forced me to learn about the best arrangement of an index.

Aditya Menon began with a categorical statement that 'Dawood Ibrahim sells." What did he want to say? Are there more good books on Dawood Ibrahim and Underworld activities in India. It means that I have to learn that how much more had been written about the events of Underworld up to 2012. I do not think that it is being pursued attentively in India.

I have seen that many reviewers make comments which are meant merely to attract the attention of the reader or make there writing sensational. There is no harm in doing that. But if it does not synchronise with the ground realities or it gives a different direction to a narrative in the book or report then it is cheating. I have found it generally a fashion among the people from media world which includes even people from the film industry. I have high regards for the creative activity of Vishal Bhardwaj. He has written a forward to another book of Zaidi. He began with a statement that Crime is more juicier than Spirituality.

Crime is more juicier than Spirituality. What does that mean? What is a type of proposition? What kind of mindset does create such a kind of statement? Does it not suggest the eccentric and unbaked mind? You find a similar sweeping statement in case of Aditya Menon comments.

Aditya Menon had given an opinion that the media world had made the people from Underworld larger than life figure. It is an opinion, but it diverts the attention from the real issue. In the field of history, a good historian will help you to understand that the newspaper, performing arts, film media and for that purpose, all the forms of creative works are a source of providing facts. However, when it comes to the newspaper, they are highly critical of the value of this media as a source of information on the facts. There is a good example concerning the works of Kushwant Singh, a legendary journalist, about the Sikh history. The historians are very critical of his History of Sikhs. It is because, while dealing with facts and reporting it, the media person are not able to detach themselves from the social forces. Merely by adopting the format of writing a work in which you give references, evidence and testimonies, one can claim that his work is of academic nature. There is a need of being critical about the inferences which you drive. You must be concerned by the formulation. If you say that a field of activity is made a person a larger than life icon, then what is the opinion when you call a cricket player a God. Do you not falter in your evaluation? There is every freedom for everyone to use the language as they do. But, when it comes to giving a professional output to the society, then you must be as attentive about the use of the terms and words.

Zaidi had written this book based on the facts which he had collected with great efforts. It earns appreciation. While writing each chapter, he continues to shift from one style of writing to other. A reader may experience it by reading that in one chapter he is reading a script of a movie or a television episode. In another chapter, he may experience that as if he is reading a news report. In another chapter, he will find that as if he is reading an article. The best example is the chapter Making of an Empire, chapter 1 in Part 2. It is an economic report on the rise of Dubai as an international financial centre. Therein, the writer does not talk about Dawood as an icon but Dubai as an icon. But the question arises, that how does Dawood identify the significance of Dubai? Was it his religion or the international economy?

Similarly, Zaidi writes many chapters in which he writes dialogues between two characters as if he is writing a script of a scene. In chapter 25, 26 and 27, in Part 2, the nature of the chapters is entirely different from the rest of the book. They read like a report. Similarly, the chapter 28, titled The Big D makes the Forbes Cut is an euology of a different kind. Can we say that it was the film industry and news media that made him a larger than life figure that helped him to make it to Forbes list? The actual issue is something else. Zaidi has not taken up the question about the methods adopted during the tenure of Julius Reberio. He has not taken up the issue of the role of the politicians. The writer has not taken up the subject of Shiv Sena and Bal Thackrey's editorials in Samana. But, the work which he produced has emphasised the existing gap in the studies which are undertaken by the intellectuals of India and he has done his part of the job. It is definitely a right comment by Aditya Menon to emphasise this point.

Aditya Menon has made the right comments but mixed his with his own opinions. He calls it a seminal work. It is the correct observation and the perfect review of the work. However, he criticised it for a filmy narrative. One can quickly experience it by reading the book to appreciate the observation of Aditya Menon. Yet, we have to give space to Zaidi. It is his mixture of different styles of creating of each chapter, which has given a character to this book. Secondly, if you read his section of Acknowledgement, you will learn that he has to claim any perfection in the field of writing such a work. He has done the right type of work required for this job. He has taken help from many friends to finish this job. Being a journalist, they are already in the work of writing. It seems he knows the shortcomings of his own work. But if he has published it, then he has done it with the confidence in the actual nature of his activity and the book.

I have learnt later that one of his earlier book, 'Black Friday', has been made into a movie. He is definitely writing with multiple motives. He has a right to do that. But, his "filmy style narrative" has earned him a criticism from Aditya Menon.

Aditya Menon has raised some objections against the actual nature of work but pointing it out that Zaidi has not made it a concrete work. Aditya says that he had failed to answer many questions after raising it. There are many more similar issues. While giving references which are from the internet itself, Zaidi has not followed the professional style. In chapter 27, part 2, titled Boucher's Botched Attempt, he had referred to a document based narrative. Zaidi had reproduced the reports of Indian Express and even the stories registered by him in a capacity of a reporter. But, Zaidi has not adopted the professional style of quoting it. When he writes, to quote Aditya, in his dialogue-baazi style, he does a great job. But, when Zaidi writes a serious chapter based on documents, he does not follow the professional style. Zaidi raised issues. But, he does not write the inferences. Zaidi raised the issue of Dongri becoming a crime spot. Zaidi raised the issue of Muslim boys taking to crime. But, Zaidi missed the point about the Gawle or Bada Rajan, his typewriter Chor joining the crime world. He missed the point that Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh migrants became criminals in Mumbai. Zaidi has not tried to take up the issues of those police officers who were wronged by the Patthar wali building. He has praised Ibrahim Kaskar, as the most revered Headconstable for credibility as a professional policeman and Musalman whom even Karim Lala did not dare to oppose, but he missed those issues which were creating the situation to help the crime to flourish.

Aditya Menon has reasoned it out himself that the book of this kind cannot be encyclopaedic in nature. But, there is definitely an imbalance in the treatment of the subject. But, Aditya is too harsh in case of the quality of Epilogue chapter. One can understand that the details of the incident at that time were not available at the time when the book was packed for publication. It is right that Zaidi had tried to create an ambience about which probably did not have any authentic documentary or eyewitness account. But, Aditya is harsh in criticising the work of Zaidi in this case.

On the issue of Pakistan and Dawood role, Aditya has rightly marked out that Zaidi has been able to given an inference which is useful for the government to consider. Aditya has also praised the efforts of Zaidi to give the honour to all those journalists from different languages from whom Zaidi had collected the facts.

Aditya Menon has called his review as 'The Don's Story'. Now the criticism by Aditya Menon of the media that the latter tends to sensationalise some issues can be directed against Aditya Menon for choosing such a title. I was more interested in gathering information about Haji Mastan when I stumbled upon this book. I read it because it was telling about Haji Mastan. Is it a book only about Underworld Dons' or about one particular Don? I read it for knowing the story of Haji Mastan, and I learned about Dawood Ibrahim. Aditya Menon has praised the work of Vikram Chandra who has written forward to this book. Vikram Chandra is all praise for the abilities and calibre of Zaidi. For me, this book has justified my quest for this kind of literature. Therefore, there is all praise for the efforts of Zaidi.

Zaidi himself is an eyewitness to the developments which are the foundation of this book. Zaidi has recorded oral history from the eyewitnesses who would have been lost and then got distorted in future documentation if he had not documented that. Aditya Menon review is the best review of this book. I have read the whole book. I have found Aditya Menon has done an excellent job. Zaidi has performed his job for which he will be remembered.

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