Sheela Raval is among the first female journalists in India to investigate on crime and the underworld. She is the only journalist to have interacted all the major Indian underworld mafia bosses: Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Chhota Shakeel, Iqbal Mirchi, Abu Salem and Arun Gawli. She was the first Indian journalist to interview Faiza Outalaha, the wife of notorious global terrorist and accused of 26/11 Mumbai carnage, David Coleman Headley.
In a career spanning three decades, Raval broke the news of Chhota Rajan surviving a brutal assassination attempt in Bangkok in 2000, attended Dawood Ibrahim’s daughter’s wedding in Dubai and is the only person to have interviewed Samira Jumani, noted gangster Abu Salem’s first wife, after Salem’s arrest and extradition.
She is presently based in Delhi as the investigations editor on ABP News. Her work has been featured in India Today, The Times of India, Femina, and The Illustrated Weekly of India. She work has also been published in various regional language publications such as Gujarat Samachar, Chitralekha, Abhiyaan, Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Mahanagar and Maharashtra Times.
Raval has been quoted as a security expert on India on CNN TV, ABC TV, BBC radio, SKY, Star Asia and Australian broadcast networks. She has conducted workshops with defence forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) at Army War College, MHOW on Military and Media Management
Godfathers of Crime is her first book. It is a chilling and revelatory chronicle of men who have lived outside the boundaries of the law for most of their lives. Told through the personal experiences of a fearless journalist, Raval’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into the minds of organized criminals.
Apart from crime and the underworld, Sheela Raval has also written on Bollywood, Indian Godmen, politics and corporate world.
What inspired you to start writing?
It was my father who encourage me to write about books that read during my school vacations. I loved reading all sorts of book particularly the genre of science fiction.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
Jules Gabriel Verne was my favourite author. The classics such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864), “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1870), and “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1873) used to fire my imagination. After reading Verne`s books, there was a time I aspired to be India’s first space woman.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
With a full time job as an investigative editor, finding time to write was a biggest challenge. It took me a year to finish writing my first book. I disciplined myself to wake up at 5 in the morning till 8am – 3 hours- and write a few pages at the least almost for a year. Finding my old notes and verifying facts were yet another daunting task.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
Diligence and updating legal case status were the most time consuming parts of my research.
What motivated you to write the book “Godfathers of Crime: Face-to-face with India’s Most Wanted”?
I thought it is the most logical thing to do after a long two decades of covering underworld.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Godfathers of Crime: Face-to-face with India’s Most Wanted”?
It is about my face to face interactions with India’s nine most wanted criminals. The book contains the stories behind the stories- that is rarely discussed or told. It is not just about mobsters and their alleged crimes and clashes between the gangs. It tells the stories of how mumbai’ petty outlaws and smugglers went on to become global mobsters, narco kingpins and even the global terrorist with the help of their mysterious benefactors.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
For aspiring writers all I want to say is that ” your intent matters, and if it is right then you can never go wrong.”
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Sheela Rawal is a speaker of the upcoming Crime Writers Festival 2016.