Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia (Book Review)

‘Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’ is a non-fiction book written by S.Hussain Zaidi, a crime reporter in Mumbai who has worked with The Indian Express, etc. This book traces the history of the Mumbai mafia, approximately from the time we attained independence, and then traces the activities of the D-Company (headed by Dawood Ibrahim), in detail.

I guess crime reporting and writing a real-life story about a criminal syndicate should be quite difficult because a lot of research is involved and one needs to find a way to actually get all this information. The author has done that part exceedingly well and has presented the story as if he had surveillance cameras covering entire Mumbai, Dubai & Karachi! Being a reporter & following the subjects mentioned in the book for years, should have helped.

It seems, Dawood Ibrahim was listed as the 50th most influential person in the world by the Forbes magazine in 2010! The underworld is about business. Only, they have made crime their business. Organized crime is a business that involves high-stakes and high-losses. The high-stakes might involve money, power and influence. The high-losses might involve loss of money, name, life, running from police/rival gangs, etc.

You will be shocked to read the extent to which each of these gangs went to eliminate rival gangs/members. In many cases, members of the same gang turn against each other. The book describes (in detail) on how much influence/connections the underworld has in India (and rest of the world) and the different kind of businesses they get involved in – Smuggling, extortion, video piracy and even producing Bollywood movies!

Initially, the book talks about the major gangs of Haji Mastan, Varadarajan Mudhaliyar, Pathans, etc. Then, the author documents the rise of Dawood Ibrahim, ironically, the son of a straight-forward (and respected) crime-branch police officer Ibrahim Kaskar. It’s a perfect rags-to-riches story, but this story is purely made of other’s blood.

The violence perpetrated by the various gangs of Mumbai will leave you shocked! There is some sort of violence in every page and even though this is a non-fiction book, reading it is like watching a crime-thriller. Only, this is a true story!

By the time you ponder on how the law and order situation could get so bad, the Mumbai crime branch police come up with innovative methods to tackle crime. The book then goes international with leading members of the crime syndicate forced to leave India, but still continue their business operation here, remotely from abroad.

At times, I did wonder about how the author (and others) could know so much about what exactly happened inside crime syndicates, as certain events are described scene-by-scene! The author has managed to write a gripping/suspenseful story and at no point do we feel that the book is a non-fiction work. I was tempted to pick up the book at every possible opportunity and read further. That, is the mark of a good author.

By the way, you should know that getting involved in the smallest of criminal activities (like buying pirated movies) directly funds activities like smuggling/terrorism. Altogether, this is an excellent book and is highly recommended.

Destination Infinity

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23 Replies to “Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia (Book Review)”

  1. Shades of Don Corleone, The Godfather. You were wondering how the author knew so much about what happened inside the crime syndicate, scene by scene. I have an answer.

    He must have seen/read lot of Italian mafia movies/books and incorporated them. Or, if he was really telling what happened inside the crime syndicate, you can read his obituary very soon.

    1. How he knew so much is still a mystery to me. I wonder how people go about researching these happenings!

      Destination Infinity

  2. Amazed me as well – how can he know such details? Well. Fact is stranger than foction.

    am definitely watching out for this book. I loved The Godfather. I reckon this will be a good read too 🙂

    1. No problem… you can read it after you complete the other books as well. I guess this book is already a bestseller and hence you’ll be able to find it anytime…

      Destination Infinity

    1. I think that someone else (or this author) can write separate books on Varada, Haji Mastan, Chotta Rajan, etc. They’ll sell 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  3. Can I get this book in the UK? I need to check in case my name appears in it 😉

    On a serious note: I don’t often read or view films/documentaries about non-fiction mafia or gang warfare. As I know, that often each member has a reason and a story behind why they are there, some may sympathise where others may not. I would, no doubt, like to read this book merely because I am now engage with business in India and more so directly in Mumbai.

    1. I don’t think there is much of a ‘story’ behind the making of these dons other than poverty and wanting-to-get-rich-at-any-cost attitude. Of course, the way each of them go about achieving it will make good stories. Actually, the best time to write about someone is after they die. That way, a more balanced perspective can be shown.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Yes, I also did not have much of an idea until I read this book. Do read it sometime… We should know what’s going on around us.

      Destination Infinity

  4. These flourishes are at the expense of contextualisation. Zaidi does not answer certain key questions he himself raises at the beginning: Why did Dongri emerge as the epicentre of crime in Mumbai? Why did the Muslim youth of Bombay take to crime? He has also brushed through certain extremely crucial events in Mumbai’s history such as the 1982 mill strike, which changed the nature of the city and the mafia.

    1. Yes, at points, it seems that he has rushed through. But to people like me, who are ignorant about the history of Mumbai, it was still a lot of information.

      Destination Infinity

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