When his son could not be found one evening after his playtime at a nearby temple, Rajesh Varma, a painter in the construction industry, collected money from relatives to announce a cash reward of Rs 15,000 for anyone who could find the six-year-old. That was 2012.
On April 21, 2012, Krish was playing in the temple near his home with other children from Gazdar Bandh slum area in Santacruz (West). He was wearing an old school uniform.
The boy went missing after that and his family printed out black-and-white advertisements on A4 sheets and plastered those on railway station pillars, in hospitals, schools, colleges and along the roads in Juhu. But for almost seven years, there has been no lead on where boy is.
The child briefly ran to the main road, some neighbours remember. But he sprinted back to the temple gate where he stood watching other children playing. His cheeks were swollen that day as a milk tooth had fallen.
“I returned from work at 9 pm. I asked my elder son to get medicine for Krish’s swelling. He went to look for him, but did not find him,” says Varma (43).
The family rushed to neighbours’ houses where Krish would sometimes hang out. His teachers at Poddar School couldn’t fathom where he might have ventured.
The next day, when a police complaint was registered, the family realised that Varma’s brother Bablu was also nowhere to be seen. “We all suspected that he took Krish away,” says Krish’s elder brother Ramesh.
The hunt for Krish led to another missing Borivali boy being found. Nearly 25 days after Krish went missing, Varma received a call from his native place at Gorakhpur and the caller said a boy his son’s age had been spotted in the vicinity. Constable Rajesh Pandey, who was the investigating officer then, travelled to Gorakhpur with Varma. “But that boy was not our son,” the painter says.
In 2013, sections of the law pertaining to kidnapping were added to the missing person’s complaint of Krish at Santacruz police station.
Gazdar Bandh residents claimed that no child has ever been kidnapped from the slum. Krish was smart, his family says. He could remember his father’s phone number, address, and his school’s name. If he was lost, he would have found his way home.
In 2012 and 2013, police screened shelter homes and hospitals to look for newly admitted children. The family visited several priests and maulanas hoping they would help.
Premlata Varma (31), Krish’s mother, visited the Kumbh Mela in Nashik, too, hoping that the boy would be found there. This year, though she could not attend the Kumbh in Prayagraj.
Two months ago, their hope that Bablu had the boy crashed when he returned to Mumbai. “He claims that he left for Bangalore to get a job. But he never found a home. He denied taking Krish away,” Varma says. “Police have little interest in finding a boy missing from a slum,” he said.