Once upon a time, he ran for his life, to avoid being caught by others, especially police. But now, he runs so that he can be in the public eye. Running has become his very life. Such is the story of Rahul Jadhav, a gangster-turned-addiction counsellor, who plans to run the entire 42 kilometres at the Tata Mumbai Marathon, to be held on January 19 this year. This year, it will be Rahul's fourth appearance at the Mumbai Marathon.
A former notorious criminal, drug addict and alcoholic, Rahul was not just the black sheep of his family, but of society as well. He was an extortionist, dealer in illegal arms and at the heart of an organised crime syndicate. But the law eventually caught up with him. He served time for his crimes and in 2013, found himself cleared of all criminal cases.
Except by now, Rahul found himself addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, his parents intervened and sent him to a rehabilitation centre in Pune for help. This proved to be the turning point in his life. The tide has turned so that now, he is working with alcoholics and drug addicts, transforming their lifestyle or conducting awareness programmes on deaddiction.
Recollecting the past, Rahul tells The Free Press Journal, "It was easy money I used to earn, from Rs 50,000 to a lakh of rupees every day, but was never able to rest easy. I could never sleep well those days. Today, I earn Rs 15,000 a month but sleep well, without any fear.”
He is happily married to Shashikala, the nurse who attended to him during his stay at the Muktangan Rehabilitation Centre, Pune. After having been called a drug addict and a criminal, today he is respectfully addressed as Jadhavsaheb.
"I was given a clean chit in 2013, and it was here that things took a turn for the worse. I turned into a drug addict and an alcoholic. However, my modus operandi of threatening people failed to work because they dismissed me, saying, "He is a bevda (habitual drunk). I began to beg and sometimes lied to people for money because I had to feed my addictions.”
At this point, his parents intervened and sent him to Muktangan in Pune. Here, he met 'Muktatai', who helped him change lanes.
Since he was a good athlete (runner), Rahul began participating in marathons. Pune’s 10k event was the first and he won the 'Yerawada ka Runner' title, which gave him a filllip.
After rubbing shoulders with the mafia and working with underworld dons in Mumbai, he now rubs shoulders with world-class athletes. The last six years have made him a much sought-after person once again, only, not by police but society. He is the perfect example of the long-held conviction that sports builds personalities. Running the marathon has changed his life -- from a robbing hood, he is a law-abiding citizen today.