It was back in 2015, then a 39-year-old Rahul Bhiku Jadhav, a former hitman, and rogue working with an underworld don in Mumbai was serving his term at the Muktangan Rehabilitation Centre, in Pune. He was still struggling to overcome his addiction to alcohol and drugs. It was during this time, his counsellor Habiba Jetha wanted him to channelise his anger and frustration somewhere else.
When Jetha asked Jadhav what he was good at, he replied running. His response came spontaneously owing to his history of running, after being chased by police, he ran away after shooting people. With the help of Dr Anil Awachat, the founder of Muktangan, Jetha arranged for Jadhav to participate in a 10-km marathon in Pune. Jadhav prepared for the marathon and ran those 10 kilometres in 55 minutes and for the first time in his life he felt he had achieved something. That’s how it all began.
Four years later, Jadhav had run a stretch between Gateway of India, Mumbai to India Gate in Delhi in 20 days. From sleeping on the streets to evading arrests, to being accused, jailed and acquitted in multiple cases, including one of attempted murder and extortion of a builder which attracted the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), Jadhav has come a long way. At 45 now, Jadhav is a changed man who once had fought alcohol addiction, overcame tuberculosis, and spent time in Arthur road jail Mumbai.
Born in Mumbai's Dombivali, Jadhav was an average student at school. After passing his tenth standard exams, he decided he wanted to get rich fast. During his university years, he met his first and only girlfriend — a shy, soft-spoken girl, who he wished to marry. But the girl’s father, who saw Jadhav struggling to finish his bachelor’s degree, got his daughter married to another man. An enraged Jadhav dropped out of college and sought easy money. He met a gunman for the Mumbai mafia who lived in his apartment complex. Charming and determined, Jadhav managed to get a meeting with the local don and an entry-level job in one of India’s many booming industries: extortion. He imagined himself as the character 'Bhikhu' (called by his accomplices) played by Manoj Bajpayee in the cult movie Satya.
Jadhav began working as a bag man in the hawala department, an informal money transfer system that skirted regular banking channels to ensure the gangsters always had cash on hand. When the money arrived, Jadhav’s job was to dole it out. Across hundreds of calls the next year, Jadhav was able to extract millions of Indian rupees for his boss. He liked the work, and he was good at it, but the organization needed something more. In 2004, Jadhav’s boss confessed a problem: a shortage of gunmen. By 2007, he was arrested by the late Vijay Salaskar and had 11 cases against him. He had been booked thrice under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act; had four cases of attempt to murder registered against him; and was wanted for being involved in several shootouts across the city, of which he was absolved in 2013.
Jadhav spent four years at Arthur Road jail, and when he got out on bail in 2010, he wanted a better life and looked for job. He was employed as a quality inspector at a small company in Thane. However, next year his name was unnecessarily dragged following a journalist's murder. He was fired from his job. Despite repeated attempts he could find a job and resort to alcohol and drugs. Tired of his antics, his family put him to the reformatory.
It was only because of his time in Muktangan, being assisted by his counsellor, he could return to a life of normalcy. After completing four 30-day programs at Muktangan, Jadhav wasn’t ready to go back to a society that. He joined the center as a volunteer. For a monthly compensation of 1,000 rupees and spent 16 hours a day cleaning toilets, throwing out trash, mopping up vomit, and tying up new addicts during their withdrawals.
Six months after Jadhav started running, in mid-2016, he was ready to go back home and he was regularly training to become a professional runner. Jadhav’s friend worked as a salesman for a small chocolate company in Mumbai and set up a meeting for him with the head of the firm. Jadhav narrated the owner his life story, and he said he could join him in his company. Every day, after work, Jadhav would travel to Mumbra from Byculla, change into running gear and run all the way to Dombivali. Later, he moved to Kalbadevi with his parents, and now goes running from NCPA to Walkeshwar and back, before running home. Running has helped him rebuild his life and conquer his demons.
The 45-year-old Jadhav's life has seen a complete turn of the arch, which has seen the breaking of a new episode. Only in this episode, he is inching closer towards a bright future.