The afternoon of 12 March, 1993 is the day when time stood still in Bombay. The city of Bombay had been rocked by a series of explosions which cut through the heart of Bombay, spreading terror and destruction over a period of two hours. These blasts occurred in some of the most densely populated areas of the city. Starting from the Bombay Stock Exchange in South Bombay during lunch hours, the blasts ripped through the basement of Air India building at Nariman Point, the Regional Passport Office in Worli, Masjid Bunder, the petrol pump opposite the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Shivaji Park, Zaveri Bazaar, Plaza Cinema, Hotel Sea Rock to the Centaur Hotel in Juhu.
The fatalities included ordinary people like samosa and sandwich vendors, struggling to earn their daily living in densely populated areas outside the Stock Exchange and nearby offices. The book ‘Black Friday’ by S. Hussain Zaidi puts forward the chilling toll: 257 killed or missing, 713 injured leaving a city completely in shambles. My interest in reading ‘Black Friday’ was revived due to the recent hanging of Yakub Memon, one of the key protagonists of the serial blasts. I wanted to understand the reason behind his hanging before I could pass a judgment on him.
‘Black Friday’ is a result of meticulous research conducted over four years. Written by S. Hussain Zaidi, an authoritative voice on the Mumbai mafia and crime network provides chilling insights into the criminal minds with some of India’s most notorious names: Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. This has been brought out through detailed interviews with some of the closest aides of the aforementioned masterminds. It reveals the true dimensions of the macabre and sinister plan which spanned several countries and had been months in the making.
The most unconventional aspect of the book is certainly the lack of a central protagonist. This makes the writer alternate between several points of views including those police officers from Mumbai Police, the accused gangsters and their pawns. Given that it is always a challenge to develop all their viewpoints, Hussain Zaidi succeeds quite well, doing justice to them, skillfully narrating their stories in a moderately paced episodic structure. Despite its strong tone, the author's voice in 'Black Friday' is subtle and takes the form of an undertone. This, in my opinion, works firmly as an advantage for the reader as they are fed with numerous interpretations and facts which unfold as the book progress, the final judgment is left to the intelligence of the readers to pass.