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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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CIMA Gallary

A don is born

A warm breeze braced with the crispness of January swept through the congested bylanes of Dongri. Here the quaint old building of Dongri Police Station had stood for decades like a lone sentinel in one of the most infamous neighbourhoods of Bombay. Senior police inspector Ranbeer Likha sat at his desk.

...On this particular afternoon, senior police inspector Likha had other things on his mind. He was listening to the patient voice of head constable Dilip Mane registering the complaint of a bakery worker who had been beaten up within an inch of his life for delaying the payment of the monthly instalment of his loan to the local Pathan, Asif Khan. It was the third such complaint being registered that afternoon…

As he mulled over the situation, he suddenly realised there might be a way out. He called constable Gogte and asked him to make a visit to Musafirkhana at Pakmodia Street and ask Ibrahim Kaskar to visit him at his convenience.

Ibrahim might have retired as a mere head constable in the crime branch but his clout in the area was much more than that of a DCP or prominent social worker. And Ibrahim on his part was ever willing to help…

Ibrahim Bhai entered the police station and took his seat opposite Likha. It was Likha who seemed more in awe of the person who came in rather than the other way round.

A concerned Likha got to the point quickly. “Ibrahim Bhai, why is this happening these days? Please speak with Karim Lala. Something needs to be done. The Pathans’ antics are clearly going out of hand!”

Ibrahim Kaskar shuffled anxiously as he sat before the visibly upset senior officer and tried to reassure him, saying, “Sahab, I will speak with him. He is a good man. He will listen to me. Unfortunately there are some in his group who don’t even listen to him.”

A reassured Likha exhaled, knowing all would be well again... This time, however, Ibrahim seemed to be losing his touch. Several afternoons came and went and there seemed no end to the Pathan menace.

Likha realised that Ibrahim’s conferences with Karim Khan were not bearing the desired results. He dreaded that the situation was going to get out of hand if something drastic was not done, and done soon... As he sat there, however, twisting his mind into knots, the doors swung and Iqbal Natiq breezed in.

Mohammed Iqbal Natiq, then 35 years old, is the rare overnight success story of a self -made Bombay journalist. He edited and published an Urdu weekly called Raazdaar (The Confidante)…

After working as a freelance journalist and columnist in established papers, Natiq launched his own paper from Dongri in 1969 at the age of 26…

In two years, Natiq managed to turn around his life, going from struggling journalist to successful newspaper owner and editor. From owning his own press to driving a spanking new white Ambassador, Natiq began to rise, rubbing shoulders with the elite.

One man who openly admired him and proudly proclaimed his friendship with him was Dawood [Ibrahim]. “Bande mein dum hain (this guy has some substance),” he used to tell his friends. Both Natiq and Dawood hailed from Ratnagiri, but more resilient a bond than their common native place was the intrinsic chutzpah they both had…

Natiq was a frequent visitor in the darbar of Likha, in keeping with the long time motto of crime reporters; to be where the action is. On this visit, he took one look at Likha and saw all was not well...

A few mandatory pleasantries later, Iqbal asked “What’s the matter? You’ve been issued a transfer order or something?”

Likha replied with the ferocity of a man plagued by an issue, “Does anything different ever happen here? Either the Pathans trouble someone else, or they’re fighting amongst themselves. I’m so tired of them!”

Iqbal gave a lopsided smile and reclined in his chair. His expression spoke more about his take on the issue than his tongue chose to. Almost like a quip, he said, “Sahab, Sholay.”

Sholay?! Have you lost your mind, Iqbal?” Likha replied, more confused than ever.

Iqbal’s smile morphed from humorous to mysterious. “You use iron to combat iron,” he said.

The famous line that the handicapped Thakur Baldev Singh of Sholay had told the cop in the film had become so famous that whenever repeated, it conveyed its meaning in its perfect sense.

Understanding dawned. Sceptically, he asked, “But who will deal with the Pathans?”

Iqbal spoke with authority, “There is a boy, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.”

Likha recoiled at the name “You mean Ibrahim’s son? No way!”… Iqbal nodded and rose to leave. As a parting shot to the already reeling Likha, he said, “Everybody in the locality knows that the boy is courageous.”…

Days passed and Likha remained gloomy over the deterioration of the law and order situation in his jurisdiction. Then, one day a small encounter scripted the destiny of both the cops and the crime bosses.

It had been a idyllic morning thus far, unmarred by anything unpleasant. As Likha was on a routine patrol, his jeep turned from Khada Parsi junction towards JJ Hospital. Soon he realised he was stuck in a massive traffic jam… Furious, he jumped out and charged towards the source of the jam... What Likha saw made him speechless.

A Pathan was bleeding profusely from his head and mouth and a youth, his shirt torn, was hitting him left, right and centre. “Now I have to break up these measly fights too,” he thought at first, resigned. But then he saw the boy; barely 20 years old, short in stature, and beating up a taller, stouter Pathan. The sight amazed him... Curious, he pulled the boy away by the scruff of his shirt and asked, “Hey, what’s your name?”

The boy stared right back into his eyes and replied, “Dawood. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. I’m the son of a cop!”

Senior police inspector Ranbeer Likha froze. One word rang in his ears like a prophecy. “Sholay!” An idea took root in his mind.

Swiftly, he pulled him out of the crowd and shooed bystanders away… He could not think of anything other than the brilliant idea that had been planted in his head by Natiq… Trying to collect himself, he asked Dawood, “Let’s go sit in the car”.

Dawood eyed him quizzically and sat in the jeep quietly, but with an air of composure far beyond his years, calling another lad nearby and telling him, “Inform them at home that I’ll be a little late today.”

“You like to fight with Pathans?” Likha asked, sitting next to him.

“It’s not that I like to; if we don’t fight, we’ll perish,” Dawood tried to explain.

“Why don’t you do something that makes your fight with the Pathans aid us as well?” Likha asked, tentatively… “Defeat the Pathans for me and I will handle the rest.”

It was then that the balance of power shifted in Dawood’s mind; the baton passed from Likha to Dawood. Instead of being Likha’s main man, Likha would now be his main man. Such was the thinking of Dawood. So the foundation of a new rule was laid, and at last, a don was officially born.