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A peek into the netherworld

This true story of a reformed criminal is eminently readable,
Last Updated : 09 January 2021, 20:15 IST

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Life in India’s underworld, largely associated with Mumbai (or Bombay earlier), has inspired so many writers and film makers like Vijay Tendulkar, Anurag Kashyap, Govind Nihalani and Ram Gopal Varma that iconic films like Ardh Satya, Satya, Company, ‘D’, Satya 2, etc., have got made since 1983 and gave us an insight into the intricate operations of the netherworld.

Puja Changoiwala’s book, Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal, is in the same genre, but what makes it different and highly readable is that she has focused on the macabre journey of one gangster, Rahul Jadhav, and his supportive family. What is more remarkable is that it is a contemporary, true story of a hardened criminal who realises the futility of his criminal pursuits after a few years and pulls himself back from the precipice to script a new life as an ultra-marathon runner.

Rahul Jadhav, a sharp-shooter, and his accomplices, whose area of operations is Dombivli on the outskirts of Mumbai, work as extortionists for a ‘don’ who, besides offering them easy money to indulge in expensive wine and women, promises the El Dorado in “double zero” (a foreign country) as they keep climbing up the chain of rewards.

After a few successful attempts at using his gun to threaten and blackmail businessmen, Rahul begins to fancy himself as a don of the area, spending a lot of time in the local bars, splurging money on drinks and bar girls. His ‘love failure’ also gives him an excuse to stay away from home, get punch drunk, often falling into gutters and sleeping in abandoned buildings, or on footpaths.

Bitter taste

After his arrest in 2007, Rahul gets a bitter taste of life in the underworld: With half a dozen serious criminal cases slapped against him, including those under the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act, 1999 (MCOCA), the gangster is subjected to constant beatings and insults, humiliated in front of his friends and family members and sent to prison without bail. Rahul’s fervent hope that his boss would bail him out falls on deaf ears and he is forced to spend a long time in jail.

Finally, it is Rahul’s family members who come to his rescue. They arrange money for his bail, besides procuring books for him to learn about legal provisions and argue his own cases. To keep him away from police harassment and also help his rehabilitation, they send him to a far-off de-addiction and counselling centre.

After every few months, Rahul returns home to turn to his wayward drunkenness again and again. But, on his sixth admission to the rehabilitation centre, when he makes a determined effort to completely stay away from his vices for over two years, Rahul discovers his passion for long-distance running….. and since then, according to the author, he has participated in many races, winning accolades.

It seems that so far he has covered nearly 10,000 km, including his participation in the 2019 run from Gateway of India to the India Gate. His mentors are so impressed with his incredible transformation that he regularly gets invitations for motivational talks.

A vicious cycle

Through Rahul Yadav’s poignant story, the seasoned crime reporter in Puja brings out the vicious cycle of crime and police brutality that those trapped in the underworld endure as the police constantly keep them on the radar, take vicarious pleasure in sometimes falsely implicating and torturing them in different cases on mere suspicion. In one of his near schizophrenic states, Rahul tells his long-suffering mother, “I feel scared all the time, Ma. There is nothing else I feel, only fear. I feel my head is a tiny dark room and I am sitting in a corner all alone. There are loud noises like gunshots and the smell of blood...”

Being an average student who came from a deprived background, it was perhaps the cult status accorded to the culture of violence that prevailed in 1980s and 90s that attracted Rahul to the underworld. His criminal activities and wayward life bring a lot of hardship to his morally upright, law-abiding family. But, despite all the trials and tribulations they are put through because of his activities, they never abandon him. As riveting as Rahul’s story is, it is his family, specially his parents, who emerge as the true heroes, as they help him have a second life.

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Published 09 January 2021, 20:07 IST

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