Excerpt: Gangster on the Run by Puja Changoiwala - Hindustan Times

Excerpt: Gangster on the Run by Puja Changoiwala

Hindustan Times | ByPuja Changoiwala
Sep 18, 2020 05:50 PM IST

The story of hitman and extortionist Rahul Jadhav, Gangster on the Run reveals his descent into crime, his alcoholism and drug addiction, his time in jail and finally his amazing reformation. He is now an ultramarathoner. This excerpt focuses on an incident that’s both violent and funny and was the beginning of a reign of terror in the Mumbai suburb of Dombivli

296pp, ₹399; HarperCollins
296pp, ₹399; HarperCollins

With hits on prominent Bollywood personalities like director Mahesh Bhattand and producer Vashu Bhagnani, Reddy had successfully created a fear psychosis in Mumbai. The don was now looking to extend his reign of terror to important cities in neighbouring Thane district – Kalyan, Dombivli, Thane city and Navi Mumbai. These cities, rapidly urbanizing and witnessing population booms, were now home to fresh, flourishing businesses and new extortion targets.

Rahul was the front man for Dombivli, and the bullet on Anish Shah had marked the don’s arrival in the satellite town. It was quite grand, that entry. It had the cops panicking, left the rich alarmed, and compelled the local press to sit up and take note of Reddy. Rahul was elated. He had laid the perfect foundation. Now, to build on it, the company required some important deaths.

After a few weeks of research, Rahul came up with a name – Rajabhau Patkar, President, Block Congress Committee, Thane district. One of the richest landowners in Dombivli, Patkar had multiple ventures across the district – from diagnostic centres and malls to schools, charitable trusts and housing societies.

‘Patkar’s family is probably the most esteemed one in Thane, Anna. They have fucking roads named after them! If we get him, all the rich fucks in the state – politicians, developers, businessmen – will piss their pants,’ the gangster explained.

‘That’s way too ambitious, beta.

‘No risk, no reward, Anna.’

‘But we can’t afford stupid mistakes this time. Tell your boys, I don’t forgive twice.’

‘I’ll shoot him myself.’


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 – 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.’

Rahul Jadhav today. After battling his addictions and giving up crime, he struggled to turn his life around. He is now an ultra marathoner whose triumphs include running from the Gateway of India in Mumbai to India Gate in New Delhi. (Courtesy HarperCollins)
Rahul Jadhav today. After battling his addictions and giving up crime, he struggled to turn his life around. He is now an ultra marathoner whose triumphs include running from the Gateway of India in Mumbai to India Gate in New Delhi. (Courtesy HarperCollins)

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 10x15 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 pm 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.

‘It’s necessary.’

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.

Author Puja Changoiwala (Courtesy HarperCollins)
Author Puja Changoiwala (Courtesy HarperCollins)

‘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. He did not want to kill the man. The action was to scare him. Once he saw that the weapon had had its effect, he fired a bullet in the air.

‘It’s been more than twelve hours since Bhai called your boss, and he still hasn’t paid up. Samaj jaao, aur sudhar jaao. Nahi toh the end.’

Upon hearing the gunshot, the couple tried to flee from the spot, but Rahul grabbed the man by his collar, and held the pistol under his chin. ‘Gandu, stay. Nahi toh thok dalega idhar hi.

Rahul and Machmach walked out of the office after locking the trio inside. Aware that they would take a while to find their way out, Rahul called Reddy as he descended the staircase. He informed that their intelligence had been flawed, that Patkar wasn’t in office. The businessman either left early, or didn’t show up because of Reddy’s threat the previous evening.

‘Since the receptionist had already seen the pistol in my hand, I couldn’t have returned without firing,’ Rahul explained.

‘I’m glad you fired,’ said Reddy. ‘As long as you’ve killed the receptionist.’

‘No, I didn’t. He’s a poor man, Anna. What will his murder get us?’

‘What will mercy get us? Murder brings money, mercy doesn’t do shit.’

Rahul did not agree with his boss, but stayed quiet.

‘You’ve disappointed me, Bhiku,’ the don said and disconnected.

As the two walked out of the entrance, they spotted Kaalya near the bus stop opposite the mall. Machmach asked if the autorickshaw was ready. Kaalya pointed to the one waiting in front of him.

‘There’s a couple inside, you chutiya,’ Machmach complained.

‘It’s a share auto.’ ‘You’re so fucking stupid, Kaalya.’ Machmach was miffed. ‘Who takes a share auto after a fucking firing?’

‘Meet us at the bar,’ Rahul told Kaalya, and boarded the rickshaw, paying twelve rupees to the auto driver for the two gunmen.

Twelve bucks and a bullet – that’s all it took to drag Dombivli to its knees.

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