The man's a perfectly unassuming sort of chappie at the grocery nearest to our building. He supplies us with water and some basics and occasionally I rent pirated DVDs/VCDs from him. (On the understanding that I don't pay if they don't play.) The nice thing about dealing with him is that one can call him and he home-delivers small things.
Some weeks ago, some time last month, I suddenly realised that it's not him on the phone. That the delivery boy is not bringing me the milk Uma Shankar knows I always buy. When I pointed this out to the boy and told him that Uma Shankar knows better than this, he grinned in a scary way and said that he's not around.
I needed to make a couple of complicated payments once or twice, so I went down to the shop. Uma Shankar was not there. Not there in the morning, nor in the evening. According to the boys at the shop, he'd always "gone home just now."
I began to suspect the worst. Tried to figure out if that really was a rotting corpse that I smelt in the shop or just some eggs gone bad. Asked some probing more questions and got equally pointless answers. Started to worry a little. I'd seen Uma Shankar with a darling little baby once and didn't like the prospect of said baby becoming an orphan just like that.
Then came a day when the boy came to deliver the water and I pounced on him and asked him a more direct question. "Where" I said, "is Uma Shankar?" When he tried to say something about Uma Shankar having gone home just now, I triumphantly said that I had been to the shop "just now" (I hadn't) and had not seen Uma Shankar there. So he sullenly admitted that Uma Shankar had gone away. Further enquiry elicited a destination: Nepal.
Kidnapping is as scary as murder, you know. And his business is not that huge, I mean, not big enough to attract serious criminals, I’d have thought.
Just as I was all set to make Vicky go to the police or something – maybe we could start a Facebook group “Where in the world is Uma Shankar” and recruit members across the globe to hunt Uma Shankar down – I needed some eggs and water, so I called up the shop.
Uma Shankar answered the phone.
And this, my friends, is why I’ll never make a good conspiracy theorist. It never struck me to kidnap the damn man just to ensure he stayed missing!
It wasn't him. If anybody knows anybody who is going to Nepal and wants to conduct a search for a missing man... don't send them to me. If there's one thing we've established thus far, it is that I'm no good at conducting searches!