‘Pakmodia street, the HQ of Mumbai underworld gangs’

This morning when I heard that a building had collapsed near Pakmodia street, it was a walk down memory lane. As a reporter and lover of old Bombay, I had gorwn up with the tales of crime and underworld.

Pakomodia street, once this name would send shivers down the spine of people when the underworld ruled the old streets of Bombay. People dreaded a phone call or visit from this locality till the 90s. A person was called by ‘Bhai’ or his man meant the worst. The Hussaini building was where Ibrahim Kaskar, the father of Dawood and his family lived when he worked as the head constable with the Mumbai Police. His eldest son, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, alias Bhai, ‘D’ started the Dawood gang from this street.

In the urban legend of the old Bombay city, Pakmodia was the Head Quarters of D gang. From late 60s, 70s till early 80s, there were there were 3 main gangs, Dawood, Pathan, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. The Pathan and D gang were juxtaposed opposite each other, even geographically. These were the two ferocious gangs that were violent and controlled initially the smuggling, supari killings and were notorious.

These were situated in Dongri, off Mohammed Ali Road. From there to Byculla boudn ary began much later Dagdi chawl, the den of Arun Gawli. Then from Jacob’s Circle or Saath Rasta, was the domain of Amar Naik. Even today police believe the Pakmodia street has spotter, informers and is the stronghold of Dawood. Families are said to receive calls from Bhai and there is informal exchange of information and business.

Till many years after Dawood fled from Bombay, the room where his father lived was locked. After Idrahim kaskar returned to Mumbai he began staying in the same vicinity. He recalled the childhood memories of living in the old Hussaini building, where his father had a room.

For Mumbai police though this was an area for ‘look out.’ They were tricky days for policing and many a challenging night. “Long back Pakmodia was known as Dawood’s gulli. One of the main gang of the underworld was headquartered here,” Rakesh Maria, the former commissioner of police said in a telephonic call from London. Maria recalled his days of policing in this area, “This was the origin from where Mumbai’s underworld began.” Maria said the location was such that areas were demarcated. “On one side was the Pathan gang and on the other Dawood gang. Ahead was Haji mastan, these were the main gangs.”

These controlled the crime – murders, shoto outs, extorition, smuggling and much later drifted into drugs and major killings.

Veteran IPS officer and former DG of Maharashtra, Arvind Inamdar was one of the first to have gone in this area to bust the smuggled gold. The mention of a building collapse and Pakmodia brought a cheer to his face. “Yes, I remember Pakmodia street. Sometime in 1988, we had raided this street. Gone inside and busted their plans. We seized gold worth Rs 3 crores at that time. It was the first time police had taken such a strong stand,” said Inamdar.

This was the first kind of direct action by police in Pakmodia street, for which the entire team was enthusiastic. Inamdar would frequently parole the area in plain clothes. “I would go to Pakmodia and the entire area in plain clothes as part of my job. In fact one could see spotters. We ensured that whatever action we took, the police would have an upper hand.”

Today, life has changed a lot. Name of Dawood does not evoke any awe or fear. Residents would rather stay away and get on with their lives. Nature too has its way of alarming. Dawood’s younger brother Ibrahim Kaskar who lives in the adjacent building got a rude shock this morning when his building too vibrated as he heard an explosion-like sound when the Hussaini building fell.

A lane that depicts corruption by auto spare parts shops & cops

This is the lane which leads to the Wadi where I live, in many ways still has old world charm. In many ways it is a dinosaur land with average people living are mostly old. Many of us in this neighbourhood are adults who live with our parents, while some families keep getting bigger, many like mine are shrinking. But the number of Vehicles in this neighbourhood can easily outnumber the normal rational types. In fact I haven’t yet uploaded the Cross Lane photos which will show how there is a quiet, serene feel to this whole picture. A childhood friend and Me have adopted a small patch and converted it into a green zone with pink and yellow flowers that flowers that are a welcoming a sight.

Once you are way inside my building, it is quiet and soothing. However, to get in here, it is one challenging task. This lane has a very Dr Jekyll Mr. Hyde schizophrenic look, it is a horror living during the day. As one can see, right at the entry with Cafe De La Paix to one’s left there is a No Parking board. And you bet, a BMW is parked right at the mouth of the eatery on the turning. So already the driver/owner has flouted three traffic rules.

Now I haven’t mentioned few crucial elements of this lane, where I live. It is a one way lane, the head quarters of auto spare parts market and most of all the haftas to traffic police and I am sure even Mumbai police amount to few lakhs per day. The spare parts shopkeepers live with an air of arrogance, which is basically – go and complaint to the police, let us see which policeman has the balls to tow our cars parked on the wrong side.

Now the films that were banned would be strewn along the pavement, most rip apart the cars parked in the second lane, which is breaking traffic rule, but all of this is about adhering to laws as compared to the amount of money made on a daily basis and the bribes sent to the Mumbai traffic police for ensuring NO action is taken.

Till now I have fought, and you have no idea when I mean fights except for getting violent, they ventured on anger, explicit and eventually one uncle shopkeeper telling me to take it easy else one of the shopkeepers may bump me off. That was years ago. Then another uncle told me “How many people you will tell? Now people living in your own neighbourhood are flouting the rules and breaking the one-way law.” It was a like a slap in my face and actually one night when my sister, mother and I were returning from a dinner later night, our next door neighbour had the gall to look at us while we tried to veer away his on coming car, that was in the wrong direction! Shameless is to say the least. Since that day I look down on him and treat him like a second class citizen. Interestingly, his son studied in US and doesn’t prevent his father from breaking law.

Sadly, owning a vehicle is a huge status symbol in India since many years now. So according to this belief I am a loser and highly unsuccessful. I dreamt of being chauffeur driven and thanks to Uber and Ola, this cream is a reality. Firstly, our family has been staunch supporter of public transport and I still continue holding that flag. Secondly, I am staunchly against multi tasking, especially when demanded by employers, because it basically means they are short changing you for cheap wages. Moreover, I also believe not all are born to do all things or should even waste their time doing so. Like cooking everyday, driving, so on and so forth. There is more to life and there are people with those skills who should be doing that and are paid accordingly. Lastly, when parking is free, nobody should even murmur or fight about spaces as if its their birth right. Come and see how my neighbours like cheapskates over some person taking over their parking space. Wow, when all of it is free. In fact one even tresspasses into another’s compound with a fleet of cars, but all has been tolerated.

So over a period of time the neighbours who realised they want to benefit from this situation have begun not protesting. They don’t argue with the shopkeepers or bring it to their notice that the cars parked along the wrong side is a violation of a Road Transport Act. They do not foresee it being a problem for anyone. Now even in the cross lane at our building gate, one arrogant young man has fought with me when I have demanded he shift his two-wheeler from the gate, as it obstructs my way. I am baffled at the way the officials turn a blind eye to all these violations.

Once the traffic police would come to our lane and tow away cars. Now somehow the police have conveniently made a policy of towing away only scooters or motorcycles, NOT cars. I have had issues with traffic police who come to my lane stand mutely and when I have brought the wrong parking or breaking of one-way rules, they have snapped at me and demanded a written complaint from me. This has become a joke in my life. So all these years it was write a letter, go and complaint to the seniors were the rude replies by cops. While spare parts shop keepers could not be bothered since their defence is our own neighbourhood residents break traffic laws.

As a result, I began using the social media platforms. First on Facebook, Sandeep Ohri started mumbaitrafficviolations page and i would upload pics with addresses. Later, I began using Twitter, then the WA number of Mumbai Traffic. All of it has failed. I get mandatory robotic replies. TO begin with – please give/share exact location and address. If I say Awantikabai Gokhale Lane, in town, they don’t take the effort to find or google it! Joke because the maps show it. Funnily, the Uber app and most maps do NOT show it as a one way, which invariably creates an issue for me to take uber from inside my lane.

After every complaint with photo and write up on WA, I am given a formal reply that says my complaint has been forwarded to a police station, a day later that station acknowledges, but I have NOT seen any concrete action of clean-up drive. My lane is still congested and difficult to pass through at normal working hours. No amount of influence, my experience as a senior journalist has helped in making life easy to live here, this I see as the biggest failure of my profession. An absolute indicator that if rules are being allowed to be broken then there is little hope we are offering the world.