Free Style Wrestling with Haji and Rukhsana….
If the setting was surrealistic, even bizarre ( a lavish suite in the old wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel ), the people present at the ‘business meeting’ were even more so. Apart from Rukhsana, Haji Mastan and yours truly ( I pretended to be Rukhsana’s secretary ), there were five or six Bhais there. It was a chiifon and pearls meet polyester and rexine moment. Rukhsana conducted the proceedings with all the hauteur of an empress dealing with serfs. She swished her French chiffon saree pallav around her broad shoulders, played with the Basra pearls around her thick neck, constantly adjusted the gigantic shades she wore indoors\ outdoors, and talked down to Haji in a posh accent. Everybody studiously ignored me ( appropriately dressed for my p.a.’s part in a downmarket khadi kurta ). Haji paced the room restlessly, his white rexine chappals making a soft squishy sound on the deep pile carpet. The other goons glowered and kept staring at the door as if expecting a police party.
The agenda for the meeting was simple – Rukhsana and Haji were haggling over gate money. Most people outside the professional wrestling circuit did not know that Rukhsana controlled all the kusti fixtures that took place in and around Delhi. She wanted to negotiate better terms for the Bombay bouts ( his territory), and Haji wasn’t playing footsie. They were haggling over Pakistani wrestlers and their fees. More importantly, they couldn’t agree on their respective cuts. She refused to budge… and so did he. At this critical point of the negotiation, there was a knock on the door, followed by the buzzer ringing. Everybody froze! Haji’s goon squad sprang up and took strategic positions…. even Rukhsana momentarily forgot her haughty act and looked startled.
Oh oh…. something was clearly not going as per the schedule. Who was at the door? Cops? Rivals? Hotel security? Enraged wrestlers?? Would guns be pulled out? Knives flashed? Would I be killed in a cross fire between hostile underworld gangs? Rukhsana reached for the phone on the elegant, marble topped table next to her chair ( those were pre-mobile phone days, remember?). There was pin drop silence in the suite as she hit the button with a swift, smooth move of her perfectly manicured index finger. A gigantic solitaire on her ring finger, caught the light from the chandelier and flashed evilly.
“ Hello….” growled Rukhsana….as I held my breath.
This was turning out to be a chilling evening.
I said a short prayer… would it be answered?
More next week!