In 1979, a young boy from Yennehole village in Karkala district of Karantaka, was told by his mother to go to Mumbai to earn a living and support his beleaguered family. Daya Nayak, the youngest son of Badda and Radha Nayak, had just completed Class 7. He took up a job at a hotel in Mumbai, whose owner treated him like family and insisted that he continue his education as well. So for eight years, Nayak lived and studied at the hotel’s porch, completing his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams from Pahadi Municipal School in Goregaon before graduating from CES College in Andheri.
He then took up a job as a supervisor working alongside a plumber, during which time he came into contact with a few police officers from the narcotics department. Meeting them was a turning point in Nayak’s life and inspired him to become a police officer. In 1995, he was posted as police sub-inspector at Juhu police station after graduating from the police academy.
Mumbai’s underworld was at its peak in the mid-90s, and Nayak’s rise to fame, like his trigger finger, was quick. In December 1996, he was patrolling in Juhu when he got word about two Chhota Rajan gangsters in the area. Nayak set out to arrest them, but ended up killing both men after they allegedly opened fire on him.
This was the first of Nayak’s 83 ‘encounter killings’. He quickly became the favourite of his boss, who encouraged Nayak’s trigger-happy ways and made him lieutenant to the now-dismissed ‘encounter specialist’ Pradeep Sharma.
Even then, Nayak had an uncanny ability to make even an ordinary meeting seem like a scene from a Bollywood movie. The powerfully built cop would walk into a coffee shop at Lokhandwala in Andheri (W), his favourite place to meet journalists, invariably a tight shirt or t-shirt. He was always punctual, and would choose a seat that gave him a view of the entire coffee shop as well as the road outside.