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Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Tale of Three Tales

Tale #1

Nuzhat's father, whom I called Mamooñ Jaan, frequently regaled us with amazing tales that were often hilarious and almost always embellished for the sake of the telling, something that a storyteller's craft demands. Also, his stories were never-ending, because - like those of Schehrezade - they always spun off (or had the potential to do so) into several more.

Over half a century ago he once narrated to us how, having had his car hubcaps stolen in Calcutta, he was told by people to visit چور بازار (=Thieves Market). Even before the actual tale began, I seemed perplexed at the thought that a place with such a name, albeit 'unofficial', could exist. Years later, I was even more shocked when I visited Calcutta and heard my sights-guide rickshaw driver point out to a police station as the Chor Bazaar Thaanah!

But, like Mamooñ Jaan, I digress… so, back to his story: Assuming that the area would have a horde of stolen goods in some nooks and crannies, he was amused to find that most shops specialized in specific types of goods and, upon enquiry, was led to the 'motor parts section' and, thence, to the 'hubcaps subsection'! He was disappointed as, not too surprisingly, he couldn't see many Citroën hubcaps around. He was asked by the shopkeeper when the hubcaps had been stolen and when he said "Yesterday …" he was told, "Voh maal to Jum'araat ko aaye gaa" (="That stuff will come in on Thursday").

We found a criminal system being so organized - and so open about itself - really funny. Even at every retelling. (Yes, there were many!)

Tale #2

It was also at Nuzhat's house that I met her 'Sheefi Bhai' - the son of some friends so close to her family that, for all practical purposes, he is considered a cousin. Sheefi - and he was not being satirical - once called Pakistan's Police Force more efficient than those of the rest of the world. The latter, he felt, had to resort to painstakingly track down criminals. "Our police people", he told us, straight-facedly and with obvious awe, "know who has committed the crime. They just are unable to catch them!"

"No Comment" (but only because ROTFLMAO wasn't known then!)

Tale #3

This morning Nuzhat was unable to control her laughter as I read out a front-page story from The News International's City Section.

Here's my annotated abbreviated version (with a link to the full story):

Three die as Bengali gangs clash in Korangi

Two gangs of Bengali robbers clashed with each other in Korangi area late Thursday night over territorial jurisdiction (Interesting that illegal immigrants should fight to death over territories that are not legally theirs, in the first place.) …

According to the police, [two Bengali gang-leaders have] been operating in Sector 50-C, 100-Quarters, Korangi in Zaman Town police limits for the past several years. (So why haven't they been stopped?) …

The area is reportedly inhabited by more than 100,000 illegal Bengali immigrants (Ok, so we now have a load of people engaged in illegal and criminal activities and we have them in one corralled space. So what are we waiting for? An independence movement so that we can arrest them for treason?), but the activities of both gangs had the police chasing after them since a long time (errr ---- but? you mean the police were after them despite their illegal activities? How odd!) …

The police said that when they were informed about the clash, they immediately reached the scene of crime, but due to the narrow lanes in the area, they could not enter. (May I suggest that, next time, we don't send fat policemen?). After several hours, the police managed to enter […] with the help of [an] Armoured Personnel Carrier (OMG: Does this mean that the policemen sent earlier were even fatter than the APC which seems to have gotten through.) …

Officials concerned meanwhile fear that if both these network are not clamped upon (By whom, dear officials? Aren't you supposed to do that?), the area might face a Lyari-like gang war since both Alam and Shakoor commanded the vast support of the Bengalis residing in the area. This apprehension is not [without] reason, as both men had been close friends in the past and used to rob citizens passing through the industrial area together, while also committing house robberies and killing people who resisted. Shakoor Bengali also used to sell narcotics in the area. (Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …

Alam Bengali is said to be very close to Rehman Dakait [=Dacoit] of Lyari, who used to support him on various occasions. Most arms used by Alam Bengali were provided by Rehman Dakait, which included rifles, Kalashnikovs and repeaters. Whenever the police conducted an operation in Lyari, Rehman Dakait used to send his men to Alam’s den in Korangi for shelter. Similarly, when the police operated against Alam Bengali group, Alam and his accomplices found refuge in Dakait’s dens in Lyari. (I REPEAT LOUDLY: Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …

Police officials had decided to launch a grand operation against the criminals, but on late Thursday night, a fierce clash erupted between the two notorious gangs (ANOTHER REPEAT: errr ---- but?) …

The area remained tense till the filing of this report. (I am tense, too, as should all peace-loving folk be. However, I am ambivalent about who worries me more: The gangs or the police. That is, of course, if they are different entities.)

But, seriously, what could be the reason for this confusing state of affairs???


Oh ... and Sheefi: You win!

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Blogger Quizman said...

That revived memories. There has been a chor bazaar in existence in Mumbai for many decades. My father used to find spare parts for his 1948 Austin in one of the auto-shops in chor bazaar. It is very famous for rare-to-find auto parts, electronic components and the like. However, the usual warning that accompanies whoever visits the place involves minding one's wallet while walking within the confines of Chor bazaar. The corollary is that if your wallet does get stolen, you can borrow money and buy it back within minutes.

02 June, 2009 05:36

Blogger sarah islam said...


Your comment about the stolen wallet is still valid in Chor Bazaar in Bombay. I went there last year as a guest of someone who owns a shop there. I was a little concerned about my purse but my host put me at ease by saying: don't worry! aap to hamarey mehmaan hain, no one will bother you!


Zak, the Chor Bazaar in Calcutta is not there anymore unfortunately.

05 June, 2009 18:38


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