Puja Changoiwala's Gangster on the Run is the story of Rahul Jadhav who took the name ‘Bhiku’ after a character from the 1998 cult classic Staya – a gangster who was everything Rahul once wanted to be. He captured his don’s attention after gaining notoriety as a tech-literate criminal, running his extortion ring over Skype. Soon, he found himself shouting threats down the barrel of his gun and became one of the most wanted gangsters of his time. After his arrest in 2007, the extortionist and hitman was left a shadow of his former self, ravaged by alcoholism and drugs abuse – which twisted his mind into a near-schizophrenic state. That was only part of his journey. Today, he is an ultra-marathoner – who as covered over 3000 Kilometers, including a 2019 run from the Gateway of India to India Gate – and aims to breaks the national stadium run record. Here's an excerpt from the book -
Rahul had never fired at a man before, but he had handled weapons on numerous instances – with Bhaijaan, and while procuring and delivering consignments for shooters in his company. He wasn’t hesitant before he offered to take the hit on Patkar. He knew he would deliver. Also, the crime paid well – Rs 50,000 a strike for other boys, a lakh for Rahul.
‘Are you sure you’ll pull the trigger?’ Machmach was sceptical.
‘Yes, why not?’
‘Because you’re brain over blood. I’m the killer, not you.’
‘Who said killing isn’t about the brain? Killing is a mindset, not training, not anything else.’
One major thing that went wrong with the Anish Shah shootout, apart from the fact that he survived it, was that Reddy’s role in the attack did not become immediately evident. To avoid the blunder with Patkar, Rahul asked his don to call the target before he fired his gun. The evening prior to the attack, Reddy made the call. As expected, Patkar reached out to the police, who immediately offered him protection. The following morning, Reddy’s name was all over the press. Reports spoke about how the don, a Chhota Rajan mentee, had extended his criminal prowess to Dombivli, now targeting the top brass in town.
‘Fantastic,’ Rahul exclaimed as he saw the newspapers, and gulped his large peg of whisky. Turning to Machmach and Kaalya, he announced, ‘Chalo, it’s time.’
On a September afternoon in 2006, the trio reached outside Patkar’s newly constructed City Mall in Dombivli (East). The mall, one of the first in the city, was located on an important crossroad with multiple educational institutions, corporate offices and industrial complexes nearby. Labourers walked next to formally dressed men and women, while students appeared busy with local food-vendors along the promenade.
‘You stay here,’ Rahul told Kaalya when they reached the mall’s entrance. ‘Hail an auto as soon as you hear the gunshot. No running like mad dogs this time. This is going to be nothing like the disaster that Anish’s firing was.’
‘Not one mistake,’ he warned Machmach, and broke into a bout of spot jogging. ‘Come on! Come on! Energy, energy.’
As the duo entered the mall, a security guard stopped them.
‘I’m looking to host this one’s wedding here,’ Rahul told the guard, pointing at Machmach.
‘Very nice, sir. World-best wedding hall we have, Mauli Hall. It’s on first floor, sir. World-best catering also,’ the guard was exuberant.
‘Perfect,’ said Rahul.
‘Come, sir. I will take you.’
‘No, we will manage. We’ve seen the hall before.’
As they walked the few metres to the staircase, the duo noticed that most of the shops were unoccupied. Work was still ongoing, and labourers were busy with painting, tiling and furnishing. The air tasted powdery from the dust while drill machine sounds echoed in most of the 10 x 15 foot spaces. A cake shop, a travel agency, a computer hardware store – Rahul read their signboards.
‘The baldy is making a lot of money from this already,’ Machmach told Rahul, speaking of their target. ‘This mall has three floors: ground plus two. Twenty shops on each floor, so sixty shops. He’s selling each for five lakh. Plus, his two wedding halls.’
‘Good,’ said Rahul. ‘The more he makes, the more we make.’
As the two climbed the deserted stairs to the first floor, Rahul pulled out a pistol from his back, and loaded it. Machmach followed suit. The hitmen were certain that Patkar was at the hall; an informant had confirmed his presence only a few minutes ago.
In addition, days of reconnaissance had told them that the eminent businessman typically visited the mall between 12 noon and 1 p.m. on alternate days. He would attend to the sales office on the ground floor, and spent at least thirty minutes at the wedding hall office before leaving the premises.
Seeing Machmach load his weapon, Rahul instructed, ‘I will fire. Use your pistol only if he resists, or if someone comes to his rescue. He could have protection – private guards, cops, or both. Stay near the door, and make sure no one leaves the office. If they raise an alarm, there’ll be trouble.’
‘Are we going to kill him?’ asked Machmach.
With Rahul in the lead, the duo walked the few steps to Mauli Hall’s bookings office. They opened the glass door and noticed that Patkar was missing.
‘How may I help you, sir?’ a male receptionist enquired. The office was an elaborate air-conditioned space with contemporary furniture and a fancy glass chandelier. Leather sofas lined the sidewalls, and a couple occupied one of them, probably waiting to make enquiries about the wedding venue.
‘Where’s your boss?’ Rahul asked, the pistol still in his right hand.
The young receptionist stared at the weapon in response, beads of sweat now gathering on his forehead.
‘Aye bhenchod, don’t you understand?’ Rahul barked. ‘Where is Rajabhau Patkar?’
‘Boss hasn’t come in today, sir,’ the receptionist offered. ‘Should I call him?'
‘No, tell the motherfucker to call Bhai,’ said Rahul, suddenly angry. He handed over a chit with Reddy’s name and three international numbers to the receptionist. ‘Tell him Anna is waiting. If he doesn’t call today, he won’t see tomorrow.’
As the couple watched in silence, Rahul took an aim at the receptionist.