Jyotirmoy Dey, Editor-Investigations of Mid-Day, had worked in crime reporting and investigation for nearly twenty years when he was shot dead in broad daylight in a crowded Mumbai locality yesterday by four unidentified men on two motorbikes. The newspapers this morning are filled with the shock and horror of the journalistic fraternity, “shock waves” in Bollywood, and calls for the resignation of Maharashtra home minister RR Patil and Mumbai police commissioner Aroop Patnaik.
Dey had received death threats in the past, and the Mid-Day editor Sachin Kalbaug is reported to have said that there had been instances when Dey’s story ideas were considered too dangerous for his own safety and abandoned.
Nobody knows yet who killed J Dey, or why exactly.
I was associated with Sunday Mid-day as a columnist off and on since 1995, but had never met Dey and only knew him through reputation as a rather tall, quiet and popular person, and a meticulous and sincere journalist.
When I read this book three years ago, I had vivid images flashing before my eyes. Through the placid and descriptive but drama-filled text, I could clearly visualise characters who looked and spoke like clichéd Bollywood characters Loin Ajit, bald-headed Shetty, and Inspector Arun Bhosle from Page Three. Amidst loud ha-ha-ha’s, guns rang out in the distance and even Vivek Oberoi reared his cute little head from Shoot Out at Lokhandwala. It struck me that for most of us, images of Mumbai’s underworld of crime come primarily from Bollywood. J Dey, however, was deeply and starkly immersed in its reality. I felt, as I read, that it was a world that did not just provide him material for his reports but was one that fascinated him as a privileged viewer.
Khallas documents some of its unique and peculiar facets. Its alphabetically-listed entries cover all kinds of gangland trivia, slang, and historical information.
To take bus number eleven means to walk. Telling someone to bring their camera means you’re asking them to carry a gun. And don’t forget the capsules – the bullets, that is. Applying cricket code, a four is to scare while a six is to kill. Chabbis (26) refers to a young promiscuous girl, whereas Atthais (28) is an alcoholic.
“Daddy-Mummy” are the dreaded gangster Arun Gawli and his wife Asha. The Arthur Road jail is affectionately termed “Guesthouse”, and we learn here which of the gang lords and their henchmen, while inside, lie on their bunks reading James Hadley Chase only to replicate crimes described in the books when they’re out. The way to the underworld don’s heart is surely through his stomach, claims this book – adding that it’s actually the use of dabba as conduit for messages and contraband that makes the dabbawala so popular.
“Shopping kar le beta” is the crafty technique of paying out little sums of pocket money to lure innocent recruits into the gang. It could get a college boy doing a look-out or passing weapons, and unwittingly becoming trapped into this lifestyle forever.
We also learn from this book that Mumbai don Chhota Rajan’s gang believes they are true patriots and greet one another with “Jai Hind!” Of other gangs, we meet the Golden Gang (all members wore gold ornaments), the Diamond Gang (who presumably wanted to be considered better than their Golden rivals), the Pathan Gang (their stunts would make you smile if there wasn’t murder involved as well), and others. Interestingly, the rolls, besides the stereotype Shettys, Shakeels and Gawdes, include the more white-collar (and upper caste) surnames of Kulkarni, Joshi and Joglekar.
Along with the horror and sorrow at the loss of Dey I feel sad that Khallas is an unfortunate word because it means “finished” and is used as callous slang to indicate that someone is no more.