PHOTO CHALLENGE: GULAB JAMUN CLAN

Having made ends meet in their youthful years by selling Indian sweets at Kengeleni plaza; a part of their lives that they often referred to while saying their life story, the Patels were the successful founders of the Gulab Jamun Clan in Mombasa. The clan was well known for smuggling valuable and illegal items, assassinations, disposal of bodies and their personal favorite – tamers of the elite.

According to the Asian Weekly article, they had two beautiful daughters well settled in Canada and a son about to finish high school in Nairobi. Investing a lot of their capital into small businesses around Mombasa and holding shares in major upcoming markets, they were considered very influential members in the community and active parents in their kids lives. They ran three major NGO’s focused on child development, empowering women and housing.

During a recent interview for the weekly magazine, Jayesh was asked, “So, what do such successful members of society do in their free time?”

Jayesh fondly held Anita’s hand and replied, “We love walking.” Anita added, “And travelling”.

Anita pulled her plastic smile to the corner of her cheeks. She hated walking. It hurt her ankles.

The reporter then followed by asking, “What do you love about the walks?”

Jayesh let out a heavy laugh; “Well…” he loved the fresh air. Nature was his calm. Living in Kibokoni for most of his life, he didn’t have the luxury of fresh air and bountiful trees. It was his dream to be able to live in a house that had a full garden. However, when he did finally achieve that, he had to destroy his garden to build a swimming pool for the children. Anita, on the other hand, found her calm in shopping and sitting in the pool. She found nature messy; trees had snakes and bugs. Beaches had used condoms and tiny ghost-looking crabs. But even she had to accept that walks were crucial in strategy, updates and stock take for their clan.

Jayesh loved to say that business you love should be discussed in the fresh air, while business you need should be behind a desk with four walls. Their public image was Prime Investments and it was perfect for them; little involvement on their part. What they loved was their Gulab Jamun Clan.  Changing their walk locations at random, they had the comfort of knowing that no one was listening in on them. Who would even suspect a middle aged couple walking around in their shorts bickering at each other? Jayesh was a master in memory and maths; he could remember every single detail for every single transaction they ever did, leaving no paper trail. Anita, on the other hand, was the enforcer. She had operational control of the task force because she had zero patience or tolerance for anything that was outside of her mindset.  Jayesh often commented that she had the makings of a ruthless dictator. What became more crucial than discussing business was that the walks became a great means of disposing cinnamon.

The reporter asked them, “How did you get started in building this empire?” The empire she was referring to was Prime Investments.

Jayesh proudly replied, “Through hard work. Our company was built with our own hands. With the little savings that we had, we found ourselves investing in other small businesses. Soon we invested in land and real estate and before we knew it, here we were. But it wasn’t easy. There were times we would sleep at night on empty stomachs. There were times we couldn’t even pay out Kshs.500/= power bill.”

Anita added, “We have definitely sacrificed a lot. And we have worked beyond our sacrifices.” She referred to how they started the clan. It started as a joke as they sat in their café when business was dry. They laughed over how ironical it would have been if such sweet people (such as themselves) were members of the drug cartel in Mombasa. They would supply people the drugs through their sweet snacks. The joke soon became a serious discussion when they realized they weren’t going to be able to make ends meet with their shop. Anita was already pregnant with their first child and they both agreed their children deserved a much better life than they could provide. They couldn’t let the kid they were bringing into this world stay for days surviving on water and left over sweets that are about to expire from the shop, or sitting in the dark in the house because they couldn’t pay their bills.

It took a lot of trial an error to build their name and the clan. There were times they found themselves sleeping under the bridge to protect themselves, sleeping in the boot of a police car or fleeing the country by car. When the two first got into the disposal business, they tried throwing away cut body parts hoping it would eventually rot away. They never realized that the stray dogs would pick the parts. Investigations were started so they moved to dumping them in the ocean to which the parts were seen floating by the Ferry. After a few attempts and fails that included even cooking the meat, Anita came up with the idea of cremation. They invested in the local cemetery and eventually ended up with a bag of cinnamon powder as Jayesh called it one drunk night.

Anita would always physically be there to see the body being burnt and wait for the ashes to be given to her. She then kept it in a reseal-able bag and somewhere deep in the park she would open the reseal -able bag and let the cinnamon powder float away. Once in a while Jayesh saw some residue on her feet that would disgust him but every time he mentioned it, Anita would remind him of that slug on his face he called a moustache. A moustache that she forced him to shave for the interview.

“You two have accomplished so much together and gone through so much. How do you keep the love alive?”

They all laughed, the reporter rephrased her question. “I’m sure our readers would love to know how you keep the spark alive after so many years.”

Anita and Jayesh turned and looked at each other and the presenter saw the affection.

“We’ve come from so far and done so much. She loved me and stood by me when I had nothing and I was no one. Where would I find a more perfect woman?”

Anita jokingly added, “I have an eye for good investments.” They laughed.

Though finding themselves in an arranged marriage, Jayesh didn’t take long to fall in love with Anita. She was an exceptional woman on all accounts. Even as wealth came knocking which brought a lot of women running to him; he never saw himself with anyone else. She felt the same. Anita had also made it apparently clear that if he ever tried to wander off, he would lose a few delicate necessities.

Most of his friends never understood his love towards his wife. She was prone to public outbursts such as once knocking down a vegetable stand with the car on the side of the road because the seller told her she was mgumu with her money. She also shot a teenager in both his legs after he overtook her in traffic and showed her the finger. She had followed him closely the whole day until she found a time where they were alone.

Anita’s fierce personality once leaked into their kid’s lives when she filled a fellow parent’s car with snakes. Their son had been bullied in kindergarten over a chocolate bar. Jayesh never bothered to ask where she got the snakes or how she managed to get them in the car. She was resourceful like that. He liked it. And he knew she was trying to be a good mother in her own way. The mother was admitted in hospital for over two months with no sign of improvement. When the doctors investigated they found that there were toxins regularly added into the IV drip. A police investigation was launched and the family uprooted their life and moved to India.

Jayesh always reminded Anita about the snakes incident when they were at nature trail. He liked to say that maybe one of the snake relatives would come and ask where their cousin was. She never found that funny, but threw him a smile. After their walk, they would go for a cup of masala tea at the closest restaurant and then head home.

The reporter asked, “What are your plans for the future.”

Jayesh jokingly replied, “With all this walking I hope to become a model.”

“Jayu. There are some dreams even I find to far-fetched.” Anita replied.

“You just wait and see.”

The reporter added, “We all look forward to seeing that.”

The interview was finished with a few laughs and discussion on what photos they would put in the magazine. After their long and hearty goodbyes, Anita went to her cabinet, picked up her reseal-able bag and headed to the car with Jayesh following close by.

In the car Anita placed her hand on Jayesh’s lap as he drove, “Jayu we have really come from far…”

“And we have done things,” he paused. “Do you regret the Gulab Jamun Clan?”

Without hesitation she replied, “Never. That’s not something to think about now. Let’s go for a walk, we have a lot of business to discuss.”

He nodded.

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