Father, tell me,
Do we get what we deserve?
Oh we get what we deserve.
45 year old Ghulam Ali Khan, known professionally as “Gandhi Bhai” was more than what met the eye. Sure, he may have looked like just another middle aged man, what with the receding hairline, pot sized belly, and glasses so out of time that they may as well have been bought in the 80s; but on a closer look one would definitely realize that he wasn’t someone whose bad books they’d want to be in. For, he was a man, who had made an entire career, and with it, crores of rupees manufacturing and circulating counterfeit currency. Gifted with an amazing talent, in chemistry, manufacturing, and in numbers, he swiftly made himself quite the empire.
You see, the brilliance of his business lied in the sheer simplicity of his idea. He was one of the first people to get into the counterfeit business, as a teenager, and he immediately recognized that the key to long term dominance in the market was not to go big, but to go small. While other people were into the printing of high denomination currency, he printed 20s & 50s only, and circulated it through not just his “people on the street”, but also through the legitimate supermarket chain that he’d acquired late in the 90s, as a way to both circulate cash, as well as to launder his earnings
Slowly, over the years, he saw competition come up, get greedy, print 1000s, get caught and get sentenced doing so, while he steadily became the biggest name to be truly underground, truly underworld, undetected. And while there were people who were jealous of his success, (there’s a strange thing about being at the top of the mountain, people want to get up there, and push you off), there was not a single person that Mumbai was scared of, who did not respect, and more importantly be afraid of him; such was the weight carried by the name “Gandhi Bhai”
However, this empire would one day, come on the verge of crumpling down. Ironically, that day was the Diwali of 2010.
Gandhi Bhai was sitting on his chair, in his adda, with his blood brother, and oldest associate Ganesh Rao at his side when Prakash Thakur, one of his distributors, or as he liked to call them, partners was brought in by two of his henchmen, Bablu and Poplu, (whose parents clearly did not know the kind of lives their kids would lead in the future), and dropped him at his feet.
Bablu,”Gandhi Bhai, Thakur had 35 lakh worth of currency notes on him, when there was a raid at his place. Every single note was seized, and the police are all over this.”
Gandhi,” I know what happens in this town, when and where it happens and who does this happen to. It’s my goddamned job to know that, and you don’t have to tell me everything”
Bablu,” sorry Gandhi Bhai”, turning towards Thakur, “now who is going to pay for that loss?”
Gandhi, cutting him short, irritably,” One more unnecessary word, and you’ll be done for,”
Thakur,” Gandhi Bhai, I am very sorry for that incident. I promise that this will never happen again. Body trembling, voice shaking. And the-the-the money… I will repay it as soon as I can. Hopefully in the next few months. Please give me a chance”
He didn’t hear all of that; all he saw was that there was a man, now grumbling and begging and requesting to be spared, except that he had the mute button on this channel pressed. What he heard instead was very heavy breathing. He realized it to be his own. He felt his heartbeat, very fast, as if somehow his adrenaline glands secreted a large amount of that hormone into his blood stream at that very moment, as a response to something. But to what? And why? He got up, and with a very uncharacteristic limp, moved a couple of steps towards Thakur. Suddenly, he started losing his vision, making him feel that the world was collapsing all around him. He was wrong. The world was not falling. In fact, he was.
The next thing that he remembered was opening his eyes a couple days later on a bed in the Tata Memorial Hospital. He opened his eyes to find Ganesh sitting on a stool, who sees his brother open his eyes.
“We are in a hospital, aren’t we?” Ganesh nods. ”Who knows we’re here?”
“No one who shouldn’t. And the business is unaffected”
We see a Sardar in a white coat talking to someone of his kind outside the door. They have a rather animated discussion, which pauses for a second when the doctor, Dr Ahluwalia, sees Gandhi try to get up. “Mr Khan, please lie down. Do not get up.” His words are duly ignored as the patient does not pay any heed to this. Dr Ahluwalia enters the room,
“Mr Khan, you have a metastatic, stage 4 colon cancer. We are looking into ways to treat you. There are some very good treatments available in the industry today, and with a good combination of surgery, chemo, and radio, we could buy you a few good years.”
For the first time since Ghulam Ali Khan adopted the moniker of Gandhi Bhai did something hit him hard, not unlike a billion KO punches right to the face. Naturally, he resisted this information After all, he was the baddest, smartest, and fiercest criminal in the whole country; a man who had shrewdly managed to get out of everything that life threw at him. He knew for a fact that there was no way that he was going to let anyone, even Death get the better of him.
“Mortals die! I won’t.”
“I’m really sorry sir, but in a condition such as yours, the chances of survival are slim. 12%. And not to mention, it could cost a bomb”
Ghulam, wobbly, gets up from his position, enraged, “Look at me! Do you think that I care a goddamned bit about money? Do you?” moves towards the doctor, seemingly to attack him, but is stopped by Ganesh’s firm hand on his shoulder, and reassuring him that everything is alright “He’s just a doctor, doing his job. We’ll go to another one, and take another opinion.”
They get out of the hospital, with Ghulam still in the patient clothes, and enter their car, with Ghulam in the passenger’s seat.
“Take me to Marine Drive.”
Once they reach Marine, after getting Ghulam new clothes,(he couldn’t go anywhere in those God-awful hospital clothes, could he?) in a drive where neither spoke a word, Ghulam asks Ganesh to stay in the vehicle, while he sat facing the sea. He saw waves starting in the sea, slowly building themselves up, moving forward. Eating away and destroying everything in their path, then coming and hitting the shore, making their impact, strangely mirroring his own story. But then they’d go back away, and slowly fade into oblivion. Would that be the end to his story? Earning and doing and conquering and destroying as much as he did, and then all of a sudden, dying? And that too not in a thrilling shootout, but cancer giving him a slow and painful death? No, he would not let that be the way that he could let it end. All his life, he won. He couldn’t not win this time.
Determined, Ghulam Ali Khan, gets up, and decides that he will not go down. At least, not without making the biggest bang of all time. He takes his phone out, and walking towards Ganesh, makes a call.
“It’s Ghulam Ali Khan. We need to talk.”
ACT 1 ENDS