“Arre babu, no one is missing, ok? Why are you cracking your head over a non- existent case?” Kalra threw up his hands resignedly and visibly upset with Sanjog pestering him. “There will be no investigation in this matter, do you get me Sanju? The police have said there is no reason for a suspicion. On your insistence, I have spent close to two precious days looking for non existent clues in a non existent case. And now I refuse to take any more of this crap.”
“Boss, trust me, I have a gut feeling…”
“Your ‘gut’? My foot!” Kalra cut him short. He seemed to be on the verge of bursting out into one of his famous ‘volcanic’ moods.
“I will not have my star reporter waste any more of my time talking about this nonsense. There is plenty of actual…” pausing at the word for dramitised effect and making a little quote-unquote action with his fingers in the air, he continued, “news to cover. Collect your tickets for Mumbai from Sheetal, you will be leaving tomorrow to cover the economic forum meet for the next few days. And make sure you get sound bites from every one who is co-chairing this forum. Can you please excuse me now?”
With droopy shoulders and heavy feet, Sanjog dragged himself away from his boss’ cubicle. Kalra was indeed ‘the impregnable Kalra’. No one could argue with him, much less win an argument with him. How would he convince his boss that he was onto something big, something fishy?
Baba Gurudebji’s charitable home on the outskirts of Panchkula was home to many homeless people. His childhood sweetheart, Sonia was a volunteer at the home and over lunch one day, she had confided how people were constantly disappearing from the shelter.
“Maybe they are moving to a better place”, he had teased.
“What rubbish! You know, this place is more a home than any charitable trust ever could be.”
She was convinced that all the people who had left Baba Gurudebji’s charitable home were actually missing. There was a mystery somewhere. She had hoped, Sanjog could investigate being associated with the city’s leading newspaper.
“Why don’t you tell the police?”
“”People have been leaving voluntarily; some claimed by a lost relative, some getting a job offer somewhere…”
“So, what’s so suspicious?”
“Don’t you see? All this is happening suddenly. I have been working here for the past five years; nothing as dramatic as ever happened.”
“Then, you have all the more reason to go to the police.”
“The trust doesn’t want to. I have spoken to them. They say, they do not want unnecessary attention! Besides, these people have decided to leave on their own so we cannot do anything.”
“Which trust doesn’t want attention? That sounds suspicious to me too! So you think they are hiding something?”
“But why bother?”
“I am not here for fun. I have been serving these guys for five years. Suddenly, if people just start disappearing, it leaves me flustered. Do I make sense?”
As Sanjog boarded the hopper flight to Mumbai, he wondered what he would tell Sonia. He had tried his best, talking to the inmates and the trustees. The inmates seemed happy their friends had found new direction in life. No one suspected anything fishy.
The trustees had the signed documents in their files proving that the ‘missing’ people were not actually missing but had left for the better. Some of them had been claimed by their long lost relatives, they had documented the letters of appreciation from the grateful kin, some had got job offers, and everything looked in order.
He had convinced Kalra to use his contacts in the police for a deeper probe. Kalra was hesitant at first, but persistence finally paid. He managed to get the police on the job but they had drawn a blank too. Little wonder that Kalra who could tell you precisely how much a minute of his was worth, was fuming at the two wasted days that yielded nothing.
Sanjog now tried to concentrate on the job at hand, the economic forum meet, the chief ministers and their entourage, the CEO’s and MD’s of big companies, virtually the who’s who of the economic world. His colleagues Ravi Shankar Pasricha and Tarun Bhatia would be joining him shortly. He wondered whether he should discuss the case with them but eventually decided against it. Both were confidants of Kalra, and he didn’t want to draw daggers with his boss atleast during this time of the year. This year’s appraisal was crucial for a much needed salary hike. No, he could not afford to mess with it. He would have to find another way to help out Sonia.