and now for something completely different......
Mafia Queens of Mumbai is a new book, written in a pulp-noir style, telling the tales of thirteen gangleaders in the Mumbai underworld - the telling difference of course being that they are all women.
Based on decades of true crime reporting by S Hussain Zaidi of the Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age magazine, it has been supplemented by the meticulous research of Jane Borgas and each of the tales reads like a gripping novelette.
As Zaidi himself puts it, “Where can an educated, crafty and ambitious woman with dreams of possessing a fortune of billions go if she ends up marrying a small-time thug with no identity of his own? Answer: Anywhere she wants!"
These clever women get up to all kinds of tricks whilst running their prostitution rings, embezzlements and black marketeering - whilst at the same time irrationally going out of their way to care for orphans and the dispossessed. Meanwhile, the corrupt and overfed Mumbai police repeatedly fall for the most obvious of tricks, rival male gangsters are easily manipulated and the press treat them like tabloid celebrities - where will it all end? Is there any other city in the world like Mumbai?
Amongst the celebrities on show are Jenabai Daaruwaala and Mahalakshmi Papamani who became criminals in order to escape from the most extreme poverty and to provide some kind of decent life for their children. There are also welll educated women like Neeta Naik and Mrs Paul who chose a rapid rise to power, fame and money.
One of the most interesting stories is that of Sapna Didi aka Ashraf. The widow of a small-time criminal, she was unaware of his occupation until she saw him gunned down by henchmen of Ibrahim Dawood (now declared a terrorist, but formerly financed by the CIA - oh dear!) at Mumbai Airport. She decides to get in touch with another victim of Dawood, who falls madly in love with her, and they set about trying to bring Dawood down........
There's also the tale of Bollywood starlet Monica Bedi and how she slowly got sucked into the underworld resulting in a sojourn in prison before she once again rose to the heights by becoming a reality TV star.
Is it possible to include all this much in one single book? - You betcha!