Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal: Puja Changoiwala – Book Review

Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal: Puja Changoiwala – Book Review

Title: Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal

Author: Puja Changoiwala

Price: Rs 259

Link To Purchase: Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal 

Format: Paperback


He ran from a life of drugs and bullets.

Now, he runs to shatter records.

Rahul Jadhav took the name ‘Bhiku’ after a character from the 1998 cult classic Satya – a gangster who was everything Rahul once wanted to be. Capturing his don’s attention as a tech-literate criminal, running his extortion ring over Skype, Rahul 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 drug abuse – which twisted his mind into a near schizophrenic state. That was only part of his journey.

Today, the gunrunner is an ultra-marathoner who has covered nearly 10,000 kilometres – including a 2019 run from Gateway of India to India Gate – and aims to shatter the national stadium run record.

Written by award-winning journalist Puja Changoiwala, this is the extraordinary story of a hitman who became a de-addiction counselor and outran his demons, leaving them far behind in the murky shadows of gangland.

My Take:

Puja Changoiwala’s ‘Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal’ is the story of Rahul Ramakant Jadhav, a boy who grew up to become a criminal. Born in a lower-middle-class family, Rahul gradually gives way to his criminal instincts and grows up wanting to be a feared Don of crime. I liked the beginning of the book when Rahul loses his friend Dina, a girl who is six years elder to him when she commits suicide. This event has an everlasting impact on a young and impressionable Rahul. This part of the book is really beautiful.

In school, Rahul is an average student who is jealous of students who secure good marks while he is not able to secure anything better than seventy per cent despite his best efforts. Changoiwala takes us through Rahul’s school days giving us an idea of his increasing frustrations. His school days are described in a remarkably interesting way though I felt a bit more space could have been devoted to them.

Rahul is denied admission in the Science stream in college in spite of scoring the requisite marks in the final school examinations because he had dropped a year due to ill-health and the seats in the Science stream were reserved for students who had not taken a break. In sheer frustration, he opts for the Commerce stream. We already get an impression of a young lad who slowly gets fascinated by crime and getting increasingly frustrated by the straight and narrow path to the top. Finally, when he moves over to college, he finds himself in an embarrassing position because of his defective English. This adds to his antagonism.

In college, Rahul meets Aarti and falls in love with her. Changoiwala describes their relationship very beautifully. It is at this point that Rahul comes in contact with several underworld dons like Mahajan and initially takes up menial jobs that involve extortion by just frightening and bullying people without committing any actual crime. Slowly he moves up the ladder in the criminal hierarchy and begins planning actual murders of people. His new boss is Anna aka Jaidev Raddy in whom Rahul has implicit faith. Anna goes out of the way to foster this trust by rewarding Rahul with plenty of money for his efforts and support whenever needed.

Rahul’s interactions with the top bosses of the criminal underworld are brought out with a lot of aplomb by Changoiwala and we can see how and why Rahul is itching to become a top Don himself. Finally, the long arm of the law catches up with Rahul and he is arrested under the dreaded MCOCA. Aarti has left him by this time and married another man. Rahul’s high intellect is brought out by the fact that he defends himself in several court cases.

Changoiwala describes Rahul’s deteriorating relationship with his family in a very touching manner. The fact that his mother refuses to come and meet him in the Jail moves Rahul to the core. Changoiwala’s description of Rahul’s final realization that he had become a totally worthless and pathetic human being without a friend in the world is really moving. Towards the end, Rahul’s repeated attempts to take his own life and the fact that he stops himself at the last minute brings out his desperation to find a genuine life for himself.

Changoiwala’s description of Rahul’s time in the various rehabilitation centres and how he keeps going back to Alcoholism is well described. Finally, it is in the sixth attempt at rehabilitation that Rahul becomes a stable human being. He becomes a marathon runner and a human being of some worth and his delight in being respected is indeed touching. Changoiwala has written this book after a lot of research and after talking to several people who were deeply involved in Rahul’s journey from a criminal to a marathon runner of some repute.

The book is narrated very fluently and touches the core of the reader’s soul. It enhances the confidence a person has in the indomitable spirit of the human soul that enables men to triumph over their own frailties. It convinces the reader that rehabilitation is indeed possible provided the person concerned really puts in an effort.

Conclusion: A big Yay! This is indeed an excellent book, and I would recommend people to read it for the fluent narrative and the depth of research that has gone into the writing.

Rating: I am going with a 4.5/5 for Puja Changoiwala’s ‘Gangster on the Run: The True Story of a Reformed Criminal’. I have cut out half a point because I would have preferred it if the author had devoted a little more time to Rahul’s childhood. She glosses over that a bit too quickly.

Rating Scale: 

                   1  Poor

                   2  Fair

                   3  Good

                   4  Excellent

                   5  Outstanding

This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program

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