While his childhood friends wanted him to progress ahead in Indian Navy, Kulbhushan Jadhav was keen on taking early retirement from the services and starting his own business. “We used to tell him to hang on and become an Admiral one day. But he would say that it was much better to start a business when young as he could work hard on it.’ He had not decided what business he wanted to do. But he was sure he would take early retirement and become a businessman,” Tulsidas Pawar, Kulbhushan’s childhood friend told The Sunday Guardian, while remembering some of the last conversations the close friends had between 1997 and 2000.

Kulbhushan Jadhav took an early retirement from the Navy in 2002.

His childhood friends now intend to petition the Prime Minister and the Governor of Maharashtra, seeking the Centre’s active intervention in saving Jadhav.

Friends remembered Jadhav’s wedding, which was attended by film star Raj Kumar. “Kulbhushan’s father, who retired as an ACP in the police, had an impressive personality. We remember how everyone on this street had come down to witness Kulbhushan’s wedding procession, as Raj Kumar had graced the occasion,” Tulsidas Pawar said. Pawar and Jadhav’s other childhood friends continue to stay in Pruthvivandan society, opposite Jadhav’s old house.

Kulbhushan Jadhav was born and brought up in the small bylanes of the Marathi-dominated area of Mumbai’s Parel. He is a teetotaller. “Despite being in the forces, where liquor is served for cheaper rates, he never touched it,” Pawar said. Until his father retired from the police, Jadhav stayed in the police quarters near the N.M. Joshi Marg police station, just around where Crime Branch Unit 3 is situated today. On the narrow street where chawl-like structures vied for space, Jadhav was lucky to have grown up in a spacious government quarter. The same quarter would host his engagement in 1995.

Kulbhushan studied in Dadar’s King George School. He completed his Class 11 from Ruia College in Matunga. “He gave his NDA examination soon after Class 11. He cleared such a competitive exam in one attempt. He became our role model. He is the best among us all,” Pawar said.

The friends recollected memories of their visit to Lonavala later, when Kulbhushan Jadhav was undergoing training on INS Shivaji, Lonavala. “By that time, he had become a strict disciplinarian. He followed an exercise regimen then. He would wake up at 4 am and go for his jog. We would just laze around in his room,” Pawar said. Till 1995, the friends met regularly and travelled together. After that, the Jadhav family moved to a much smaller flat in Mumbai’s Powai area after Jadhav’s father retired as ACP from the Mumbai Police. Jadhav got married in 1995 and later got two children.

Kulbhushan Jadhav has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), his friends told The Sunday Guardian.

During his days at NDA, he used to write long letters to his friends, telling them about the details of his rigorous schedule. “He had joined when he was barely 17 years old. Initially, the place seems very tough to everyone. For the first few days after joining, he would write about his anxieties, and tell us how the course looked so difficult that he felt like running away. But in the same letter he would also write how he could not face his parents, and could not imagine of denting his father’s reputation by taking such a step. But within a few months after joining, he got used to the place. Then he never wrote anything like that,” Pawar said.

Asked if they knew about Kulbhushan Jadhav’s business or that he was caught by Pakistan and was alleged to be a RAW agent, they denied. “We lost touch with him after 2000. The family moved out of the police quarters in 1997. He would come to meet us for almost three years after that. Whenever he came to Mumbai on vacation, he would visit us. But then, he did not come after 2000. We lost touch with him. We did not know of his early retirement from the Navy. We also didn’t know of his business. When we heard of his arrest last year, we were shocked. All of us childhood friends are soon going to write an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure his release. We should bring him back.”

Meanwhile, the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav has moved to an undisclosed location. His house in Silver Oak, Hiranandani Park, continues to remain locked, and under heavy police cover. His younger uncle Subhash Jadhav, also a retired ACP in the Mumbai Police, spoke to The Sunday Guardian on phone from his Shivaji Park residence: “We have an atmosphere of mourning in our home. I request the media not to disturb us.”

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