Oct 18, 2013

Dongri to Dubai by Hussain Zaidi

I was quite young when T-series music honcho Gulshan Kumar was shot outside a temple.
He was returning home after his morning rituals. Like the rest of the country, I was also shocked. I found it hard to believe that someone could actually be murdered in front of a religious building. Few days later, Rakesh Roshan had a narrow escape. Those were the days of release of the film "Yes Boss", Shahrukh Khan's rise to superstardom and my introduction to the existence of Indian mafia.

Years later when I was cynical and not so young I managed to get my hands on the book "Sacred Games" by Vikram Chandra. While I wasn't happy at the quality of his writing, I could not but marvel at the story. It was very evident that this was a story that was based on years of research and inside stories.  In fact, I kept trying to match the characters to people in real life, the stories to incidents but couldn't make a lot of headway. Recently when I came across the book "Dongri to Dubai" by Hussain Zaidi, I felt somewhat obligated to read the book and its stories.

Hussain Zaidi is a journalist and not an author, and this fact is apparent throughout the book. He is definitely not a story-teller as well, which is a pity. The book is full of countless small stories that make up part of the different dons' lives. A lot of these stories would also differ from what people would have read or heard about. And in my opinion, since a lot of these stories are second-hand,  one could probably think and doubt some of the incidents' exact verity?

One would think that the entire book is about Dawood. However it isn't. There are loads of details about the other characters who are also related to people around Dawood. Some times these small stories distract oneself from the main story. Unfortunately there is not a lot of material for the main story. This is why you have detailed stories of Sabir, Samad Khan, Baashu dada and more. However when you come to the big D, the details are pretty less.

Why? Was Zaidi scared to offend the don? Or was he too impressed by the don's demeanour during his past encounter(s). Zaidi frequently talks about Dawood's love for riches and fast women. Other than the one story that every news rag has printed, there are no names about either the objects that the riches bought or the women for whom Dawood had a fancy for. While there are few subtle hints, there are no heavy details about the people in Bollywood who have been connected with the mafia.

Some times it seems that  Zaidi tries to explain about Dawood's activities and reasons behind making new connections through-out this book. The don is portrayed as someone who is interested in money and strategy and not in religious encounters. For a country which lives and dies by religion, this should provide some mental succour after being fed with multiple versions of conspiracy theories.

Zaidi's book is more of a journalistic account of events that took place than a seamless story of  one man's journey from Dongri to Dubai or Pakistan. He  tantalises the reader with whole lot of details about people they are not interested in but leaves them wanting for more when it comes to the main character. The twirls of smoke still remain despite having been cleared a bit.

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