Book Title: Gangster on the Run
Author: Puja Changoiwala
Even to a dreaded criminal, life affords a chance at redemption. Only one among a million takes that route though, like Rahul Ramakant Jadhav, on whom Puja Changoiwala’s book ‘Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal’, is based. At the very outset, the author makes it clear that ‘this is a work of non-fiction’, yet each page reads like a thriller that delves deep into the core of Mumbai’s underworld.
This is the story of ‘a gangster, a gunrunner, a sharpshooter, an alcoholic, a de-addiction crusader and an ultra-marathoner’, whose limited family means lead him into the dark alleys of crime. Rahul, a sickly child at school bullied about by those stronger than him, finds solace in the company of a girl, who later commits suicide, jolting the boy’s psyche.
His steps into the world of organised crime coincide with the release of Bollywood blockbuster ‘Satya’. So impressed is Rahul with its lead character Bhiku Matre — a role essayed on screen by versatile actor Manoj Bajpayee — that he adopts the name and becomes Bhiku Bhai in his area of operation, Dombivli.
Rahul finds love and loses it; then becomes a ‘jilted underworld gangster’ whose ‘glib threats and charming delivery’ make him a ‘natural sociopath’, ‘one who did not bow to pressure’. Dispassionately, he takes hungry steps into murky lanes and seeks refuge in alcohol. Nemesis is not far as Rahul lands in the police net, the vigilant Vijay Salaskar squad of encounter specialists, but is somehow spared the bullet; not the jails and court cases. Years later, when he is absolved, he cannot divorce alcohol.
Numerous trips to a de-addiction centre, attempts at suicide in between, ignite his will to fight back. Rahul takes to running, which is today his life. His redemption! An ultra-marathoner, who ran from Mumbai to New Delhi in 2019, Rahul is also a de-addiction counsellor now.
Detailed and well-researched, the book narrates a tale of hope. The author’s diction is impressive, so is her nuanced eye. Barring the length, which could have been reined in a bit, the book impresses on all fronts.