A book about Mumb[h]ai's behens, mummys and nanis

[This book review is written for Blog Adda under their Book Reviews Program. If you have a blog and would like to review a book, visit the link to enrol]

Hussain Zaidi became a household name when his book Black Friday was made into a film by the same name and the film caught the attention of the nation. I never read Black Friday but after watching it I had thought that the book which inspired it would be a work to reckon with. When Zaidi came out with Mafia Queens of Mumbai, he definitely raised the expectations of the many fans - some of whom were fans of his earlier book and some of whom were fans of the movie and hence his book.

Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges have definitely done their research for this book. Through eight sections, they tell the story of more than a dozen women who left their mark in the dark underbelly of Mumbai's mafia. With their simple style of their writing, the reader runs the risk of reading the book like a racy fictional novel. The only harm of such a pace being the failure to realize that each of these characters were real and existed at some point in Mumbai's criminal timeline.

The following lines from the story of Gangubai - The Matriarch of Kamathipura, echo one of my sentiments about the book.
It is not like she was all milk and honey. We mustn't forget that she was running a brothel at the end of the day....there was surely a dark side to her that people have chosen to forget. You cannot prosper  in this business otherwise
The authors - intentionally or otherwise - have not projected the hard matter possessed by these ladies in the book. Something which is essential for anyone - irrespective of gender - to survive in the underworld. I would have liked that part to be highlighted because when contrast women with their actions and attitudes in this manner, you show how these women had to exploit their feminine characteristics and, in many cases, shed them to be able to thrive in hostile environments.

Having said that, the detailing in the story of each "queen" is impressive and makes you want to turn the page. The story of Monica Bedi, who was in the news not so long ago, reminded me how lives of simple girls living next door can change in ways they would have never imagined. I found all the stories interesting especially those of "Sapna Didi" and "Gangubai".

I would recommend the book for that one day train journey which you are planning to take. It entertains and surprises and does not bore you for a minute. But it does not leave you with that one thought which you may want to have after reading a book. I leave you with this excerpt
Ayaz had reached the first floor when three women stopped him. They were dressed in gaudy saris and had red and yellow bindis on their foreheads. "Saar, Mahalaxmi Papamani's case ..."
"No, don't bother. Give me the papers and I will handle everything"
But the women didn't mov; instead they made Ayaz sit down and hear them out. Twenty minutes into the conversation, Ayaz had learnt his lesson; appearances could be deceptive.
These women were actually well-read legal functionaries of Papamani. They knew the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act by rote. In fact, they actually enlightened Ayaz about the technical loopholes in the prosecution's case. Even before meeting her, Ayaz was impressed with the team of brain and brawn that Papamai had gathered around her.

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