Book Review : Private India

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WHY I READ THE BOOK

I have read Mr. Sanghi’s Rosabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and Krishna Key. They were all thrillers with a story comparing past Indian mythology with characters in the present. I still have to find a name for this genre. For the time being, I call it the Indian version of Dan Brown. I am so glad it exists because I remember wanting someone to draw parallels from Indian mythology and write a Da Vinci Code like book.

Naturally, when Mr.Sanghi digressed from his comfort zone into a pure mystery one, that too in collaboration, I was intrigued. I was mulling over whether I should buy it from Crossword or order it online, when I caught it up on review at Blogadda. I was still secretly hoping that there would be some similarity to his older books.

The ONE reason above all that I picked it up is – I wanted to know how two authors can come up with a book. If it were me, the book would be shelved because of creative differences however well I know my co-author. I also wanted to see if I can pick up parts which were written by Mr. Sanghi and parts which were written by James Patterson.

( Alas, that was not to be. I now think the whole book was written by Mr. Sanghi, with James Patterson only giving his creative inputs for the structuring of Private India (the agency) and its boss (who’s a foreigner)).

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are an avid Indian fiction fan, you might already be familiar with Mr. Sanghi’s works. You won’t need a reason 🙂

If you are not, then you might want to pick it up for an engrossing read on a train journey or a replacement for weekend afternoon siesta. It’s almost like watching a movie! Another, if you are a Mumbai-ite, you are sure to feel as if you are A PART OF the investigation team as the book takes you through the nooks and corners of the very familiar localities – read CST, Dharavi, etc.

(I always thought how New Yorkers might be feeling watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Little Manhattan. THAT – you’d feel!)

THE BOOK

Let me tell you, Random House has done a pretty good job at the paper quality and print size. That is the first thing that attracts me to a book.

The cover has Mumbai’s landmarks – The Taj and Gateway of India – giving one the feel that something chilly is inside the book, as the eye falls on a man running for his life – below the Bandra-Worli sea-link.

I can tell that it’s a winner from the fact that the better half (who is a non-reader) picked it up and read the first 5 chapters before I had even started!

THE PLOT

The plot is character driven, with the story being nothing more than a serial killer on the loose and investigators hot on his trail.

I was at a disadvantage here; I have not read James Patterson’s works – and the investigating agency, Private India – happens to be an Indian Wing of a global(?) organization ‘Private’.

Since it is a character driven story with the killer’s motives set deep in his own past life, it is very difficult to hold the suspense till the end. I, for example, had identified the killer almost instantly when he was revealed first in the flow. The alternatives and their possible motives are not sufficiently expanded. I feel the story was fit for a 2 book version or a larger page count.

The parallel tracks are distracting – what with the personal ghosts-from-the-past of the agency’s local boss and the forensic expert, the terrorist attack plan (I still have to figure out WHY that track was introduced at all).

It is almost as if they were introduced because the main plot was too thin.

The narrative style is what we are used to these days – COP side, KILLER side and PARALLEL happenings in different chapters.

THE CHARACTERS

This agency, Private India, has local people as employees – a drunk but intelligent and experienced ex-cop, a quintessential brainy babe, a geeky computer whiz, and an NRI medical/forensic expert returned from the US. I found them all stereotypes except the computer whiz – whose character was painfully left unexplained in the end.

Private India’s global boss is a middle-aged ex-CIA agent Jack Morgan. James Pattersons’ readers might know more about him.

One of the most interesting characters is an cop who is in charge of the interrogation officially. He and the local head of Private India (the ex-cop) are at logger heads, with a hint of previous friendship gone sour.

The other characters and possible suspects are interesting – an attorney general, a hair stylist and a Yoga trainer. ( I tried to rule out all imaginations about her looking like Rujuta Divekar, as per the popular the line in movie disclaimers “All characters are fictional and resemblance to living individuals is purely unintentional.”)

The victims are as diverse as they can be and one is at a loss to find SOME connection between them. However, the way they are all introduced spells out that they are going to be the next ones. I wish that was done differently.

There is a local Don-cum-drug network owner and some ISI people planning a terrorist attack in parallel.

WHAT I LIKED

1. I liked a strong woman investigator as a key character.
2. I liked the mention of the book “Confessions of a Thug” – I had read it’s Gujrati version from our local library about 16 years ago and I thought nobody in the world would’ve read it. (Now it know it’s famous :|)]
3. I liked how the locations of Mumbai are mentioned as if the world knows the famous suburbs. If we are expected to know ‘their’ New Yorks and and Houstons and Bostons and Washington D.Cs, even they should know ‘our’ Mumbai!

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

This list is a little longer (and the reason I delayed the review)

1. I wanted more. This is not a bad reason, but I felt there were still loose ends in the end.
2. I felt that the story had too many abrupt breaks and parallel tracks to remember. Perhaps the reason I read it in breaks is why I might’ve felt that way.
3. I did not like the parallel tracks at all, as they had no connection with the actual story.

Spoiler Alert(skip if still to read)
4. The computer whiz guy is still a mystery. Who was he talking to and why was he fleeing the country?
5. The woman investigator’s back story didn’t quite sum up. So didn’t the attorney general’s.
6. Some characters, like the Baba are just mentioned – not expanded even if they play a major role in the killer’s motives.
Spoilers Over(skip if still to read)

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, I was certain I disliked the book, but as I write this review, I think actually liked it. I don’t have any solid reasons for not liking it.

That said – I stand by the fact that it is confusing and too much to take in at once and it still leaves a large room for character expansion. For me, it was like my view of Haider, intriguing first half – disappointing second half.

Reviewer’s rating   3/5

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Book Review : The Bankster

Publisher Rupa Publications India
Publication Year 2012
ISBN-13 9788129120489
ISBN-10 8129120488
Language English
Binding Paperback
Number of Pages 364 Page

Source : Flipkart

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I have reviewed 5 books from Blogadda and this is the 6th in the Blogadda Book Reviews series. I got this copy through a tweet asking if readers wanted an instant copy of ‘The Bankster’ for review. And believe me it was instant! I got it within a week of applying.

I picked this book randomly as this was a genre I had not read from an Indian author. It differed from the books from Blogadda I read earlier – a drama (All and nothing), Chanakya’s chant (Political/Historical fiction), Mafia Queens (crime documentary), The Wednesday Soul (Comedy), You can sell (Self-help). This one was a fictional thriller written by an IIM alumnus. Also the name Ravi Subramaniam rang a bell, which turned out to be a mix-up with Ravi Venu.

One fine day, after Diwali, I read the book and believe me, I kept running back to finish it every now and then.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

  1. You like CID and CSI alike.
  2. You are skeptical of Indian authors and want a book that challenges your brain.
  3. You want to read a book that when translated to movies would be worthy of a watch. (picture Angels and Demons)
  4. You are into Apple products 😛
  5. Because I say it is worth a read! *ducks n runs*

THE BOOK

At 364 pages, the Bankster makes a delightfully long and fast paced read. I would advise skipping the blurb on the back to make it more interesting while figuring out the mystery. Our generation has grown on the staple diet of shows like Lie to Me, Bones, Castle, the Mentalist which figure prominent cop/investigator duos. The book has one of the Indianized versions of them. There is a certain kind of believability in the story which is very essential to a very elaborate and high profile thriller.

As far as I know, the situations and scenes are original in context and provide a novelty to the ‘whodunnit’ angle. The book is far more than a murder mystery or a thriller. It makes one sit back and think of the dark intricasies of the wheelings and dealings that go on in the banking and political sector.

THE PLOT

The plot is story driven. A welcome deviation from the books I have read recently. There are 3 parallel tracks and the convergence is well depicted in the end. The story starts in Africa, the scenes very reminiscent of Blood Diamond and Casino Royale – still original in writing. The main chunk of the plot takes place in amchi Mumbai – with lots of stuff that every Mumbaite will enjoy and relate to. A parallel track runs in South India where a nuclear power project is being thought of. Money scam appears to be the main theme of the book when the reader suddenly finds out that it is more than just a Hawala scam.

At certain points, the story seems to switch tracks abruptly and start with one of the 3 parallel tracks. In that case I did what I always do – read the continuation chapter first 😛

THE CHARACTERS

There are many characters and each well etched in the whole story. One keeps flitting from a character to another trying to put him/her in the cross-hairs – even I did the same. And just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a sharp twist. ( IIM people do have a devious brain, don’t they? Kidding :P) Mumbai police has been given its due credit and I loved the fact that the PSI in charge was a sincere young officer. The FBI people were true to their stereotype. There is one more international police squad in picture – again an intriguing read. The characters in the banking sector Vikram, Indrani, Raymond (I could almost picture this portly fellow), Harshita  and others could be found anywhere around you.  The characters from the nuclear power plant can be found in any agitation/movement be it the Lokpal, Narmada Dam or our very own nuclear power project coming up in Jaitapur. (On a side note, I hate the this track because I wanted to base my novel on the Jaitapur project. Anyhow, if I do write it – please note that I really had the idea in mind before I read The Bankster 😛 )

WHAT I LIKED

I liked the fact that there are cool gadgets (read iPads and iPhones) at play – that way I could flaunt my relevance to the smartphone industry. Again, I really appreciate the last twist which makes the book a very worthwhile read – because I had figured out rest of the plot almost in the middle of the book.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

The book could have been a little tightly edited and carefully proofread. I did not like the fact that Kaavya, the lady from the amateur investigator duo – did not have much to do and was reduced to a mere showpiece. On the whole, I did find all the female characters a bit slow in grasping the situation. Anyway, since I do not consider myself a feminist, I would like to appreciate the well written book and not focus on the need for gender equality.

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, pick up the book anytime during transit and enjoy a wonderful read. Coming from an Indian author utilizing everyday settings from Mumbai for a global thriller, this one deserves a read. Skip the Rowdy Rathores and Salman movies for once and try a desi thriller book instead!

Reviewer’s rating   3.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review : You can sell by Shiv Khera

You can sell

Book: You Can Sell
Author: Shiv Khera
ISBN: 9381626510
ISBN-13: 9789381626511, 978-9381626511
Binding: paperback
Publishing Date: 2012
Publisher: Westland
Number of Pages: 328
Language: English

WHY I READ THE BOOK

The book caught my attention as soon as it was up on Blogadda – for one, it was just in line with my work profile and other, I am a sucker for self-help books. Who doesn’t love a well experimented and oft taken path to perfection? Self-help books, as often misinterpreted are not the easy way out for dummies. On the contrary, they are a means of knowledge sharing and evolving as a group.

To give you an idea about my work profile, I am involved in client engagement, from the requirement analysis to project completion phase and my work revolves around a lot of sales processes happening in my organization. I saw an opportunity to better myself at these processes and who wouldn’t grab a free hands-on training from THE sales guru?

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

As Mr.Khera puts it, everybody is a salesperson at some point of time. You need not explicitly be into the sales domain to identify yourself as a sales person. If you are a student seeking admission, you are selling your resultsheet to your college. If you are a writer, you are pitching your draft to your publisher. If you are a homemaker, you are competing to be the best host in your social circle and yes ma’m, that makes you a sales person selling your hospitality skills to social contacts. (Err…I honestly didn’t want to sound so medieval finishing schoolesque. Nevertheless, you get the idea!)

After reading this, now if you are wondering ‘How in the world am I a salesperson?’ You’ve gotta read this book to find out!

THE BOOK

The book consists of 31 chapters each dealing with different aspects of selling – which is defined both as an art and a science. The author sets the tone for the talk in the book from the Preface itself. What I like about self help books is that it has a lot of motivating anecdotes. This one too has them, and coming from Mr.Shiv Khera, they give a feeling that even successful people have had their fair share of a learning curve before becoming an authority in their field.
The author starts from What is Selling? Well if you want to learn something, the very basic thing is to know what you are learning. He says that those into Sales are not there by accidents. They choose the profession and then excel in it by following a few set of rules which when combined with ethics and logic give fantastic outputs. He gives the readers a well defined action plan after taking him through the basics and ends on a very alluring note that ‘You can sell’!
Each chapter has in depth discussion on its topic (For example : What buyers need and want). The chapters throught the book describe how giving the best to your customer should be your prime objective rather than earning money (which eventually follows 😉 ) The salesperson should always be looking for a win win situation for his firm and the customer. It delves hugely into the buyer psychology and offers insights into how can one create the need for his product when he sees that there is no possible way people may want to buy it.

It focuses on the communication that should go on between the sales person and the prospect – at the time of pre-sales, sales and post-sales. Sales deals are basically relationships that you build over your career and go a long way in establishing your brand in the market.

There are assignments at the end of each chapter for evaluation of your learnings from it based on your own professional setting. I had quite a time scratching my brain over it. The assignments help one get to know – kinda like the SWOT analysis – where he stands.

WHAT I LIKED

I liked the simple narrative, well defined chapters and flow of the tutorial style lessons.  The quotes used to illustrate a point are spot on.

To quote an example :
“Winners make it in spite of problems, not in absence of”

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

Well, the book does get a bit repetitive as the chapters progress. I guess it is a strategy followed by most motivational speakers to imbibe the thought process in their audience.

IN A NUTSHELL

The book is worth its money. The advice therein is golden. Just start from now, be consistent and success follows. Those into sales, aspiring MBAs and self help book lovers should absolutely read it.

A tip for reading the book : Refer it time and again even after you finish reading it. Write down all the exercises in a notebook and analyse your present standing vis-a-vis that from the book. Practice what is written……you won’t believe the results I got after putting this book in practice have kept me from posting this review since long 🙂

Reap the benefits of a seed well sown, a deed well sold!

Credits : Book Information – Flipkart.com

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review : The Wednesday Soul by Sorabh Pant


This book review is being written through me at the evil behest of a rogue Martian.
Otherwise Martians be good people, they be. You may understand that these words have been censored out by him, these too and these too……. Focus, you earthling!

Warning : This whole review is a spoiler. Go buy the book and read it first to get the head or tail of this review written by this very incapable earthling. Regards, Martians.

Why I read the book

One fateful day, when I was doubling over in pain due to a kidney stone….I noticed Sorabh Pant’s tweet about Westland Books bestsellers. The agony on my face made way for worry as I realised that the Mayan Apocalypse may not be a rumour afterall; since @hankypanty had tweeted without a tinge of humour, sarcasm or pun! I had realised that it might be a PR kinda thing, ‘cos people do so when they write a book. Had he written a book too? *Lord save us!* I asked him about it, as I saw Martians landing….and in turn, managed the feat of getting @amisht@ashwinsanghi and him form a very adorable mutual admiration society. I love that kinda thing! *sniff* Little did I know that I was the target of this sharp marketing strategy devised by the Martians who are outsourced by Ms. Recliws, who has ghost written(no pun intended) The Wednesday Soul. They tactfully bombarded me with pictures and media bits about the book and at a sleepy moment, under the influence of a 400mg Spasmoproxyvon, took over my brain too and made me sign-up at Blogadda for the copy. *I was wearing normal zero glasses then, should’ve worn sunglasses to escape* Over the days, they made me read the book, not once but twice (once with Wren and Martin’s souls) ; bribing and coercing me at times.

* here’s the real reason *
Most of the books I am picking up these days are when I am skeptical about their overnight success or the way the author might have handled the plot. I have been following Sorabh’s tweets for quite some time. He can be very witty at times and sometimes, I do not like his tweets at all. I found myself shaking my head all through the description of the book and thought, it seems whacky,…..but still it might have a Comedy Circus kinda humour maybe. I can’t stand sick jokes in the show. I have high regard for stand-up comedy, but I like them when they are not nasty in an insulting way, each line has an underlying wit to it and most importantly, it is not cheap. This book, written by a stand-up artist, seemed to have some elements which made me skeptical about the praise it was garnering; but at the same time it was not cheap. I could say that without reading by seeing it’s price tag – Rs.250!

Why you should read the book

Okay it’s not cheap. So you can drop that reason. It doesn’t have an emotional touch. The prerequisites are an IQ above 130 and to keep the logical side of that genius brain (yes, I have one of that kind too :P) aside to appreciate the beauty of the writing. So, don’t buy the book. *tap on the head by Martian wielding an electric taser* Err….you should buy the book for it’s humour quotient. You’ll find yourself sucked into the world created by Ms. Recliws…err…Sorabh and not find it out of the blue at all! You’ll fall in love with the lunacy out-folding itself right from the author’s intro, preface to the last page! If you like Govinda movies and Steve Martin movies alike, this one is for you! You’ll meet lotsa celebrities from the geek world, your college idols (Pythagoras, Gauss…. Che Guevara), Attila the Hun(who tries to pass off as Hagar the horrible but fails when he tries to joke using hun err… pun). I read it for Guru Dutt, yes I was one of the disappointed Guru Dutt fans when… *tap on the head again… “No spoilers, earthling”. “Alright, I got a little carried away. Keep the taser away please, I have a review to write”*

The story

*conspiracy theory*

Recliws wanted it to be a philosophical title, but Sorabh titled it The Wednesday Soul, to cash in on the hit A Wednesday and the Chicken Soup series which always ends in soul. The cover has been designed by a secret symbologist, so that it has Greek letters hiding in the font of the title. It gives it a Dan Brownish feel. The word Sunglasses is written in different colors to combine sun and glasses which play a major role in the story. There is liberal use of Feng Shui eye symbols to keep it from the evil eyes of self proclaimed critics and book reviewers, but they don’t work on me 😛 I even got this through the Martian standing on my head!

*conspiracy theory*


There’s not much of a story…… *looks around with frightened eyes trying to spot any approaching antennae with tasers* The story is a classic romance panning not across years, eras but incarnations after incarnations – the standard Bollywood masala. Nyra dies in a freak accident to discover that there is a world of the dead, where they term us the real ghosts! When she dies, she is denied the right of living happily ever after with the love of her life – the burly hero of the story, who is a classic mysterious lead. What angers her more is that she was a victim of an evil conspiracy by the classic Bollywood villain (who I guess had possessed Ajit, Pran and Prem Chopra during their shoots that led to many masterpieces in the Hindi Cinema). Now this villain, who goes by the name of Kutsa is actually…. *”Alright! Keep that away. Sigh….”*

Anyway, the story is awesome. It has references to history, politics, science, astronomy, and what not! You will read every chapter with delight at finding new laws of the world of death. Two stories run parallel, the live world and the dead world. Some characters move effortlessly from one to another and lead to an awesome finish of the murder mystery. *Keep it consistent Earthling, you said it’s a comedy, then changed to romance and now to murder mystery? Ms. Recliws said it’s about finding your innerself and that Coelho soul searching stuff….I haven’t dared read the book you know…..after seeing your state….*

Characters

Nyra, is a no-nonsense urbane vigilante, who roams around like a Ninja avenging the gory crimes against women. She has her flaws too. Like she drinks, and goes out on Delhi roads….alone! She thinks from the heart. She is spunky and does not even heed Gods when it comes to following her instincts. She is err…how shall I put it delicately, a little on the wrong side of normal weight(read fat), but totally in love with herself………that is what I liked.

The hero of the story, Chitr, has a mythological parallel and is very cute as the amnesiac Head of some important department in the world of dead. He is just perfect, if he just didn’t have that paunch. He really needs to lose some weight. Hence, he is a perfect match for Nyra. See the deep thinking?

Kutsa – Now this name really got to me you know! He is a very nasty villain inspiring awe from even the people he tortures. He is the epitome of vileness. One good thing came off it. I was haunted by the name, thinking I had heard it somewhere and then realised that it is very similar to my gotra…..maybe the rishi influenced the ideology of my ancestors and read a lot about my descent and Kutsa rishi, to realise with relief that this is just a work of fiction by the author. He was not like that at all! And I got to know much about my origins too 🙂 Win win 😀

There are so many supporting characters like I said. You’ll recognise some of them instantly from your textbooks, iPod lists, fiction books and if you know some Nobel Prize Winners. I haven’t mentioned any from the parallel story but they are totally ROFL material. A hyper Northeast Indian doctor and a Delhi cop with no sense of grammar or tense priding himself on speaking chaste English, make the parallel leads.

Writing style

Being a stand-up artist, Sorabh writes like one. Witty, ladden with puns and contextual jokes. I read along swiftly till the first 2-3 chapters appreciating the quirky style, but was immediately held up by typos which keep appearing to the eye which is gifted with spotting “typo- score” like the “eye-score” mentioned in the book. Westland should really have had better editors and diligent proof reading before giving the book to print. This I say because the book is surely on its way to the bestseller list. Urban India has an appetite for books which tickle their grey cells and I give full credit to Sorabh for respecting his readers’ intelligence to digest such a whacky story! All this in a debut novel – which is not his forte – considering he is temporarily retired from scripting TV shows (psst…not getting any writing work or so the grapevine says…. *the Martian was on a tea-break 😉 *)

me likey……..me dislikey 🙂

Thumbs up for the innovative plot, flow of writing and respect for readers. I really felt the editing was lax….I think a book published by Westland should have been a little carefully proofread.

In a nutshell!!!!!!!!!!

Picking this one up is compulsory! Not to flaunt your IQ score, but to enjoy a thought provoking journey to the Universe of the Dead and Alive. You’ll surely come out wiser and happier from it. Also I can use some peers to discuss the amazing conspiracy theories discovered and allusion spotting done by me. In order to convince you that this is not sarcasm and I really liked the book, I give it a  rating of 3/5. 🙂
Go read it and come back to the review 🙂 You’ll like it all the more.

Disclaimer : Typos in this post, if any, are purely unintentional. I haven’t got my payment from the Martians yet :'( Please feel free to point them out, though I won’t correct them….it takes me eons to write a post and will take another era to correct them. Just wear your sunglasses, the typos disappear then 😉

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review : Mafia Queens by S.Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges

The female of the species is deadlier than the male.

-Rudyard Kipling

Not dark, a bit gritty and evoking interest without getting judgmental……….. Mafia Queens is a book that strikes a perfect balance between fiction and non-fiction in the art of storytelling.

Why I read the book

This is quite a story. One fine day in 2002, I stumbled on a promo of Black Friday featuring Kay Kay Menon in the Indian Ocean song ‘Bandeh’. Two of my most favorite artists brought together by an eccentric film-maker Anurag Kashyap. I faintly remember trying to get all the information about the movie which was quite a task as Internet was not the phenomenon it is now. I got to know that it is based on the novel Black Friday by a veteran crime journalist S.Hussain Zaidi. Days went by and the movie never came. My dreams of seeing the Kay Kay movie seemed blurred but then out of the blue I got to see it in my engineering days when a heavily edited version was allowed to release. On seeing it, I realized the caution behind allowing its release.

The movie set the ground for my curiosity in the field of using crime reporting as a base for a novel. I wondered how Mr. Zaidi could go story hunting and then name dropping so fearlessly. And then in June this year, one of my reader friends went on raving about the book Mafia Queens. I decided to give reading it a shot although I was pretty skeptical about the treatment of the subject from the title. Just as the title Black Friday made a strong statement condemning the happening and labelling the fateful day as a ‘Black’ page in history, Mafia Queens was a title which seemed to unnecessarily glorify and romanticize the crimes and its femme fatale perpetrators.

When I feel that I disagree with something, I go deep into the matter and then form a definite opinion if any. When Blogadda put up the book for review, I did not miss the chance and signed up immediately.

Why you should read the book

There are many big names associated with the book. It boasts of an elegant following with the prologue written by Vishal Bharadwaj & Vikram Chandra being associated with the discovery phase and the actual drafting of the book. Mr.Zaidi weaves his stories with utmost sincerity, dropping the names of the who’s who of the Mumbai underworld wherever necessary. The sources are very authentic with some stories like Sapna Didi’s coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

But this is not the reason why you should pick up the book. The above points are just an icing on the cake. If robbed of its starry accolades and relevance to the sensational details pertaining to the Mumbai underworld, it still makes an intriguing read for the audience panning not only India but the world at large. Jane Borges is a surprise package personifying the spunky and young reporter circle in the present day Indian media. I am secretly jealous of her getting to experience and write a work of such calibre at such a young age. The combination of Mr.Zaidi’s experience and Jane’s fresh approach makes Mafia Queen a delightful read.

The story

The book is a collection of short stories from the era when the Mumbai underworld was at the peak of its ill-famed glory. It starts with a reference to Haji Mastan, the oldest recognized Don by the media, film-makers and people alike & ends at the present day gangsters who are a very subdued version of the ganglords who once ruled the crime scene of Mumbai. The interesting part is, they are all side characters to the actual stories which center on their female counterparts. There are 13 stories featuring each of the ‘Queens’ some from different time frames, some overlapping each other’s tenure but showing a common streak of each wanting to be a survivor. They do not want to play the victims of fate even though pushed into taking resource to criminal activities. They all show a common zeal to live life to the fullest, I could almost see a spark in their eyes as I read through the amazingly balanced accounts.

Characters

Like I said, the characters though have a common underworld background, show a remarkable variety when it comes to cunning, wit, modus operandi and appearance. Suprisingly characters like Monica Bedi, Tarannum, had no direct connection to actual crimes.The best narrated stories are that of Jenabai(gangster turned freedom fighter), Gangubai(the matriarch of Kamathipura), Sapna Didi(a hapless victim transformed into a femme fatale) and Monica Bedi(a naive girl caught into criminal quagmire by her own foolishness).

*Spoilers ahead*

Most of the stories draw their plot from facts published in the media and insider info from relatives, informers etc. Most of the readers must have come across them in front page & page 3 news. I liked Jenabai’s cunning and philanthropic traits. I did not find her turning to bootlegging justified at all. Whereas I found Gangubai’s decision of staying back at Kamathipura totally justified. As they say, somebody has to get their hands dirty in order to clean the backyard. She saw to it that the women from Kamathipura are not exploited or maligned by the so called guardians of morality in the society. I found her outspokenness very spunky be it the conversation with Karim Lala or when she asked Jawaharlal Nehru to marry her. Monica Bedi’s story is worthy of a cinematic adaptation.

*Okay spoilers over 🙂 *

Writing style

One can easily identify the reporter base to the author as each story is narrated with perfect precision and literary aloofness. He has managed to keep his thoughts from mingling in the story, at the same time; evoking a sense of mystical feel to the otherwise drab media articles which state only facts. True stories are very difficult to document as they involve a lot of big names and connections who do not wish to be named. The authors have managed to do so and in turn maintained the credibility of each story. This is by far the best true story accounts I have read after Alive.

me likey……..me dislikey 🙂

I liked both the authors’ courage in sticking to the facts. I liked the way they have shown restraint from sensationalization and exercised due discretion in giving the accounts which concern the personal life of the characters. They could have resorted to ruthless romanticization of the stories in order to catch reader attention by creating controversy. According to me, the book could have been wrapped up with fewer accounts as the stories after Monica Bedi’s seem hurried up and without details.

In a nutshell!!!!!!!!!!

Overall verdict, this book is for film-makers, writers who wish to depict true accounts pertaining to news that have rocked the media for a very long time. The avid reader would like to check out this latest offering from Mr.Zaidi and Jane to enjoy an interesting tour of the dark underbelly of Mumbai.

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