Review: Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia by S.Hussain Zaidi

by Shreyas Kulkarni on May 29, 2013

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Author: S.Hussain Zaidi
Publisher: Roli Books
Year: 2012
ISBN:  9788174368942
Rating: ★★★★☆
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S.Hussain Zaidi, the author, is no stranger to the criminal world. He is a veteran of investigative crime and terrorism. He is perhaps the best crime reporter Mumbai has ever produced. I say best not because his first book ‘Black Friday’ went to become a bestseller of it’s time and then adapted into a movie of the same name or because he has been the chief crime reporter of Mumbai’s best newspapers. He is the best because Mumbai’s most dreaded dacoits and gangsters agree to speak only to him; he is the best because Zaidi was the only one to get an interview with Dawood Ibrahim after he left the Indian shores forever. It is only befitting that Zaidi after two decades of work gives the city and the country a brief glimpse into that world of Mumbai which exists beneath the shadow waiting to be unleashed once again. (Also read our review of the recently released Byculla to Bangkok.)

Dongri to Dubai is not just a narrative of the Mumbai mafia but it’s a chronological epic, set near the time of independence, it records the birth of the Mumbai mafia. With small and humble beginnings, the formation of gangs and alliances, the book chronicles the growth, activities, expansion and the massive revenues of the Mumbai mafia. With brief glimpses into the lives of dons like Haji Mastan, Vardha Bhai, the Pathans who made Mumbai not just their home but the hub of criminal activities. Places like Byculla, Dongri, Kamathipura and chor bazaar are known the world over today due to such activities. The lives of these people and the culture of Mumbai has been painstakingly described to the finest detail but all of this forms only the base of what the book really is about.
Born to a highly respected police officer, how this boy went from being a street urchin of Suburban Dongri to one of the worlds worlds most wanted terrorist is really what Zaidi has written. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar’s life can be described as that of a Bollywood movie. His life has been described with majestic detail from his birth to his first crime, his romances, escapades and how he went on to give birth to one of the world’s biggest crime syndicate D-Company.
Dongri to Dubai describes us how Dawood who was used as a pawn by Mumbai Police to catch other criminals and how Dawood checkmated the police in their own game, how he virtually controlled Bollywood. Zaidi also gives us the history of many other things like the meaning of the word ‘Rampuri’ or about the lady who had come dangerously close to finishing off Dawood and also the first ever registered encounter of Mumbai police.
 The second oldest son of the Kaskar family had a criminal bent of mind even before he turned ten. Dawood was raised in a poor family and always dreamed of being rich and powerful. He and his elder brother Sabir were the ring leaders of their gang which used to commit small cons in Crawford market, little did anyone know that this small kid would grow up to give birth to the dreaded D-gang.
Dawood had a very cool, cunning, calculating mind. He understood at a very early age that nothing matters more in this world than money, and that everyone, right from politicians to cops to the man on the street needs it. So if he gives them what they want, they will give him what he wants.
Dawood was attracted to Haji Mastan’s lifestyle. His impeccable white clothes, the chauffeur driven Mercedes-Benz and the mansion at Peddar Road. Haji Mastan was the first celebrity gangster of the city, from smuggling to financing movies, he had done it all. He was widely respected in all circles and was the Godfather of his time.
The underworld in those days had rules which were more like a cultural setting. Unwritten rules which were strictly adhered to by everyone. All criminals knew family was off limits; all dues had to be settled without any collateral damage. Haji Mastan looked after this culture like a hawk and made sure no one broke it until Dawood arrived. Dawood and Sabir were sworn enemies with the Pathans and when they murdered Ibrahim, all hell broke loose. Dawood went on a blood thirsty revenge which made Bombay tremble with horror. Those were the bloodiest years this city had ever seen.
Dawood wanted to avenge Sabir’s murder and this time he made it personal. No one was spared, right from threatening family members to brutally killing members of the Pathan gang. Dawood had transcended everyone’s imagination, after avenging Sabir’s death, he went on to become one of the biggest gangsters of Mumbai.It is this gang war which made the Bombay police wake up from its slumber. Soon the police were witnessing multiple horrific crimes every week and one thing was found common, Dawood had become virtually, omnipresent in every crime.
He managed to flee from the clutches from the hands of the police after a last minute tip off. It is said the tip off was from someone who worked for the government. Dawood had fled for Dubai knowing very well that he may never return to India. He still has not overcome his melancholy at leaving Bombay. From the 93 serial blasts to the November 2008 attacks, Dawood has been accused of having a hand in all terrorist activities in India.
Even after Dawood shifted base to Pakistan, he has not been able to overcome his love for Bombay and neither has Mumbai been able to forget him. That is the reason why Dawood choose to reside in Karachi, a port city and known as ‘Pakistan’s Bombay’ whose atmosphere gives Dawood a wave of nostalgic memories of the city where he grew up, the city which taught him life’s lessons the hard way and also the only place in the whole world which made him feel at home even in the most challenging of times, his legendary and yet terrible deeds make him the most profiled gangster in modern times especially in Bollywood where his reach is still present.
Dongri to Dubai is a book which is a very essential source of information for anyone who wants to understand the Mumbai from the early fifties till the nineties and for those who are in awe and hate of Dawood’s rise as an international terrorist. This book is worth every penny.

You can read another review of the book here. Also check out the New Indian Express’ review of the book. For the author’s latest literary foray into the underworld, read our review of Byculla to Bangkok.

Written by Shreyas Kulkarni

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