Rahul Banerjee



Rahul Banerjee


The Case Of The Missing Statue

The Case Of The Missing Statue

13 mins

Every country is uniquely marked by its distinct ancient historical and cultural heritage. Now that can be in the form of monuments, buildings, burial sites, or paintings, religious icons, and artifacts of historical significance. India too like other countries of the world has a deep and old historical and cultural heritage. This can be seen in the form of monuments like Taj Mahal, Qutab Minar, Char Minar, etc., also in ancient wall paintings of Ajanta & Ellora and many other places all across India. Similarly, its religious icons and temples too have very significant importance throughout the centuries and continuing. These icons have a special value in the black market for stolen art and artifacts and also for smugglers of such items. Unfortunately, the cartel of international smugglers doesn’t give much credence to the feelings and emotions attached to these icons and sell it to the highest bidder in the international market for such items. This nefarious and illegitimate practice is rampant not only in India but also in countries like Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. wherever items of such historical and cultural significance are found. The most tragic part is that some people help these very groups of smugglers in transporting the cultural and historical heritage of their country away from it.


My following story is also based on the theme where a religious symbol is stolen from a very rich and conservative family who had planned to give it to the museum as a symbol of the nation’s pride and rich cultural background.


The Iyengars were a very rich and conservative family in the south of Karnataka. Their family had deep and significant cultural and historical roots and were very popular among the locals. Subhash Iyengar, the head of the family was a tall handsome fifty-six-year-old man who had after graduating from Cambridge, London, had come back to India and opened up a software company and also had started an e-commerce company which was doing very well. Sujatha, his wife was equally still pretty and quite qualified as she had also done major in journalism and was the editor-in-chief of a well-renowned magazine. They were complemented with two lovely children Vanshika and Rohan Iyengar. Vanshika was the elder of the two siblings and was as pretty as her mother and also she was an accomplished neuro-surgeon, while Rohan was the managing director of his father’s firm. The Iyengars were also very traditional and religious family. They had a very priceless statue of Lord Natraja, which was very old and had been in the family for many generations. The unique thing about this statue was that it was made out of gold and adorned with priceless stones. Another unique aspect was the pose of Lord Natraja was very rare to be found in other statues. They had kept it in their private collection until now and had decided to donate to a museum to be displayed to the public as a symbol of the heritage of the country. As the statue was very priceless, so it had to be transported under armed security to the museum, under the watchful eyes of Mr. Krishna Rao, the museum director. Mr. Krishna Rao was a student of history and archaeology and had written many articles and thesis on the ancient cultural heritage of India. He had been working as a curator of the museum for the past twenty-five years and was very well respected amongst academics. So the Iyengars had decided to move the statue under the supervision of Mr. Rao. On the designated day of the actual movement of the statue, something happened that changed the way the Iyengars trusted anybody and also ruined Mr. Rao’s career. As it was being moved from the family house to the museum, nothing untoward happened; but when it was moved within the museum compound and taken under armed guard to the inner sanctums of the museum where an anxious Krishna Rao and his staff were waiting for its arrival. As the wooden crate arrived in the inner room, Krishna Rao instructed all non-essential staff to clear the room, and then under his watchful eyes, the crate was opened. 

Everyone was peering eagerly to take a look at the statue when lo and behold! the statue was missing from the crate!. 

At first, everyone was shocked and stunned to react and then a collective gasp of panic and chaos went out from everyone present there, including Mr. Rao. This news immediately spread like wildfire all across the neighborhood, the state, and finally into the ears of the Iyengars who were dismayed and shocked to respond. Gradually news of the theft of the priceless artifact spread whole across the nation and everyone was shocked and dismayed at such a loss. As it usually happens in cases like this, that someone from the inside is involved in such thefts; so the suspicion fell on poor Mr. Rao. 


Even the police were convinced after the initial investigation that Krishna Rao had a hand in this theft. Speculations and gossip don’t take much time to spread and word spread around that the curator of the museum was instrumental in the statue’s theft and he had been in collusion with a gang of international smugglers who were very active in the area. Krishna Rao, on the other hand vehemently denied these allegations but to no avail. He even pleaded with Mr. Iyengar to believe him and said: “Sir, you have known for me so many years, do you think that I could have done such a thing?” Subhash just looked at him and did not say anything he did not want to believe that Krishna Rao could be involved in such a thing and he had a hard time convincing his family who was strong of the opinion that Krishna Rao was the culprit. Subhash felt helpless as he knew that this was not the case and also it had been quite some time now since the theft that there had been no significant leads to the identity of thieves or its whereabouts. In desperation he one day gave a call to his one of his old roommates in boarding school, Professor Prasenjit, who had earlier had solved a murder case and who had left his full-time job of teaching and become a private detective for help. Prof Prasenjit listened to him very patiently after initial pleasantries and promised to come over. 


When Prasenjit arrived at Subhash’s place, the first thing he noticed was that there was an extra amount of security personnel and equipment installed at his home. He asked Subhash “Why have you put so much security as now the theft has already occurred?, Subhash gave him a worried look and said, “ so that anything else does not get stolen”.

Prasenjit then asked to have a look at the place where the statue was kept in Subhash’s house. Subhash gladly took him to a vault-like room where security was tight with guards around the clock and CCTV surveillance 24 hours. Here he turned and said that “ till the moment it was with me, it was safe”. Prasenjit just went inside the vault and gave a very careful look and came back outside. He said that he cannot guarantee but he will try his best to solve the case. The police officer in charge was informed about Prasenjit’s arrival and he promised all co-operations as and when required.  


Prasenjit then started his investigation by interviewing all the members of the family and also the staff at Subhash’s house. There was one more member of the family who had not been introduced in the beginning and he is Subhash’s brother Karthik Iyengar. Karthik Iyengar also had a business of his own and was staying with his family at Subhash’s residence as his house was under construction during this time. One thing that Prasenjit noticed during his interview of all the family members that although everyone was as shocked and surprised at this grave loss; Karthik seemed somehow overly distraught over the whole incident. This seemed a bit odd to Prasenjit and also he sensed a deep sense of resentment against Subhash in Karthik, although he never displayed this emotion on the outside. Anyways Prasenjit then turned his to the staff and here he found that most of the staff were very loyal and completely loved and respected the family. Thus this eliminated all of them from the suspects’ list, except one of the guards who kept on trying to be as evasive as possible during Prasenjit’s questioning. Thus Prasenjit doubted this particular guard and he asked the police to keep him under surveillance. Subhash could hardly believe when Prasenjit initially told him about his suspicions about the guard.


A few days later, the police officer in charge personally came in a hurry and asked to meet with Prasenjit and Subhash. When both of them came and met him in the drawing hall, the officer informed them that the guard in question had been seen meeting some suspicious-looking characters for the past few days and also that he had acted strangely while under surveillance. When Prasenjit asked that ‘what did he do?’. The police officer said that this guard had stopped at a tea stall window and tried to check whether anyone was following him or not and also twice backtracked the way he had come just to check whether he was under watch. This convinced Prasenjit that this guard was involved in this theft and asked him to keep him under surveillance and the guard was about to do something stupid as he was very nervous. The police officer was bewildered but thought it better to keep quiet and followed his instructions. Subhash too was mystified at Prasenjit’s deduction about the guard and asked him that ‘how can you be so sure?’ to which Prasenjit replied ‘ I have a knack of knowing people’s nature by just looking at them and I believe that this will not be the end of the case’. Again Subhash was surprised and was curious to know to that what he meant by that. Prasenjit just winked at him and said ‘just wait and watch’.


Again, a few days later this guard was caught red-handed by the police giving delivery of the priceless statue to a gang of smugglers. There was an instant sensation as the news spread across the whole of the state and the nation and also a sigh of relief that at last the national treasure has been recovered. The Iyengars were too overjoyed and in the mood of celebrations and invited Prasenjit over to their party. Prasenjit politely declined and rather met with Krishna Rao and had a long conversation with him. After the meeting, he asked Subhash to put pressure on the authorities to release Krishna Rao and ask for an apology. Subhash was delighted to accommodate his friend and did as he was told, he even asked the museum authorities to exonerate Mr. Rao honorably and reinstate him to his previous position, but Krishna Rao politely declined and said ‘when I was shouting at the top of my lungs claiming my innocence, no one believed me. Now everyone is trying to compensate me for the loss of my reputation and that of my family!’. He further said with folded hands that ‘I have given my life to academics and this museum, but all I got was unjustifiable punishment for doing my duty, I am sorry that I cannot accept this position and I will live my tainted life hiding somewhere’. With that, he left them and was never to be seen again. This also made the rest of the Iyengar family very guilty of their actions and they tried to plead with Krishna Rao to forgive them and come back, but he politely refused with folded hands.


Meanwhile when the whole Iyengar family was undergoing a plethora of emotions; that is both joy of recovering the statue and also the remorse and grief of losing an exceptional gentleman like Mr. Rao, Karthik was trying to be over joyous and was trying to convince them to throw a grand party and also to reinstall the statue with great pomp and show at the house till further decision. Due to his persistence, Subhash reluctantly agreed and this time convinced Prasenjit to join the party. Prasenjit this time readily agreed to Subhash’s absolute joy and surprise. On the eve of the party when everyone was in a cheerful mood Prasenjit looked a bit pensive. When Subhash asked him that ‘what’s the matter? aren’t you enjoying?’. Prasenjit said ‘I have to give all of you a piece of grave news and paused looking for reactions from everyone’. When everyone’s attention was on him, he called the police and few officials from the ASI and the museum. Here he asked the authorities to check the statue. At first, everyone was taken aback, even Subhash was surprised but when the officials declared that the statue and the stones were fake, everyone was stunned and speechless. Subhash asked Prasenjit what was the meaning of all this. The Prasenjit looked at Karthik who was looking nervous and said ‘I have had a long and interesting conversation with Mr. Rao and he said that he had his doubts on Karthik since long because Karthik had approached him days before the theft and told him that he had to replace the statue with a fake one and in a matter of days it would also be stolen. When Rao had become surprised and enraged and threatened to disclose all of this to Mr. Subhash and the authorities, Karthik had just laughed and said that no one would believe him and he would rather be implicated in the theft as it happened’. Krishna Rao had further told Prasenjit that Karthik had tried to buy his loyalty and silence by offering him a percentage in the sale of the original statue. Now everyone was bewildered and looked suspiciously at Karthik who tried desperately to prove that all of this was false. Prasenjit further added that ‘I have asked the police cyber cell to put a watch on Karthik’s digital activity and hack his emails. Where he had corresponded with some people who were interested in buying the artifact. Prasenjit produced the documents along with Karthik’s bank statements that showed that his account had been credited with 100 crores as an advance payment for the deal. Subhash and rest of the family were completely aghast on hearing this news and Sujatha said that ‘Karthik, we were so good to you and we trusted you completely and you did this to us’. To which Karthik, at last, seeing no option but to confess spewed out his venom at the Iyengars and said ‘that all of you have always borne a condescending attitude towards me and my family.’ He further said that ‘I have waited for this opportunity to get back at all of you throughout my life and now I am glad that I have done it’. Prasenjit then quietly asked that where was the real statue, to which Karthik just laughed and said ‘you will never find it’. The police then made a threatening gesture and Karthik quickly revealed that it was in the basement of his room where he had kept it till an opportune time arrives to hand it over to the smugglers. The police then arrested Karthik on the spot on the charges of theft of national property, collusion with the gang of smugglers, and committing perjury against Krishna Rao. While the police were taking away Karthik, Subhash just said one thing ‘I should have never trusted and loved you so much, I should have rather kept an animal who is far more loyal to his master’. He further said that ‘your crimes against Krishna Rao will not go unpunished’ and with that, he turned away. The police then took Karthik away. The next day as Prasenjit was about to take his leave from the Iyengars, Subhash came and hugged him dearly and there were tears of eternal gratitude in his eyes. He said that ‘we are in your debt forever our lives and whenever you require anything or come here, just holler and we will be there’.Prasenjit was overwhelmed with tears too and said that ‘I have just helped a friend and saved an innocent man as this was my job and duty’. With that, he left their place for the airport.


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