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Krishna Gone Missing

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One of the 500 MISSING flyers Anu made for Krishna.  

Krishna, meanwhile, had spent most of the afternoon gradually wending her way south. At one point she wound up in Brooklyn. She then picked up on the same cue that had already betrayed her—the elevated train tracks. Although Krishna didn’t know it, she was now following the J line back toward Queens. She still assumed that walking under the trestle would eventually get her home.

As darkness fell, around 8 p.m., Krishna found herself in East New York. She walked into the enormous bus depot at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and Broadway and roamed among empty buses until someone shooed her away. Several more times she tried to approach people with “Help, home, mistake.” It didn’t do any good.

Later, she wandered up a ramp and onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Cars whizzed by, dangerously fast. After another bit of walking, she came across a second cemetery. This one was bigger than her native village. It seemed bigger than Kathmandu, the capital. Its size, stretching toward the horizon, made the mind ache: a city of the dead nestled inside a city of the unresponsive living. She spent hours wandering in the dark, and all she saw were graves.

Anu didn’t sleep that night. By the morning, she was convinced Krishna was dead. It was all her fault—dragging her mother to America, tossing her into this vast concrete maze. Shyam kept telling Anu that her mother would come home any minute now, but after 24 hours, that was getting harder for anyone to believe.

A burst of hope came directly from Nepal. Krishna’s husband, Maita, spooked by, but mistrustful of, the American psychic’s prediction, went to a different astrologer in Pokhara. That one saw Krishna “in a park near the water.” This was vastly preferable to the “under water” vision. Maita called Anu and relayed the vision. The family went searching the East River waterfront.

Krishna told them what she had seen— the city of the dead, the green deer, the ghosts in tracksuits.

Midway through the night, Krishna had found her way out of the cemetery. Led by the light of a distant McDonald’s billboard, she walked along the cemetery border, past darkened gas stations and body shops, until she came upon a 24-hour coffee shop. The shop was deserted except for a single middle-aged waitress whiling away the graveyard shift behind the counter. Krishna opened the door, triggering the chime, and sat down in the booth closest to the door. The waitress offered her a sandwich and a glass of water, but Krishna was too proud to accept food from a stranger. Couldn’t they tell from the gold? She was no beggar. She had a perfectly lovely home; she just couldn’t find it at the moment. After a moment of silent negotiation with herself, Krishna took the water.

She felt her head grow heavy and dozed off, waking to a rude shove a couple of hours later. The waitress’s shift was over. The man who had come to relieve her yelled at her, probably for letting a vagrant in, and kicked out Krishna. Krishna slept a little more on a cemetery bench, woke with the sunrise, and decided to retrace her steps, orienting herself by the light from the east to walk north, the direction she believed would lead her home. A friend of the Gurungs’ would later report a sighting of her in Ridgewood. He saw her from afar and didn’t realize she was lost.

By Saturday afternoon, Krishna had gotten herself back on Queens Boulevard. She looked for the green deer, but couldn’t find it, and hatched a new plan. Off in the distance, about four miles away, the Citigroup tower loomed, the tallest building in the borough. Krishna decided that the tower marked the city’s center or main square. So she marched to Long Island City, narrowly bypassing Woodside on the way. She’d been gone now for almost a day and a half.

Just a few blocks north, the clan was pulling together to find one of its own. The call was put out to the Gurungs all over the United States. Uncles, aunts, and cousins were streaming in from Boston, Baltimore, Virginia, and South Carolina. The house on 62nd Street became a center of almost martial operations. Small teams trawled Woodside, Maspeth, LeFrak City, Hunters Point, Astoria (where a subset of the Nepalese community resides). Point persons were assigned—Anu, Shyam, Anu’s sister Babita and Shyam’s friend Pravakar. A rotating team of volunteers stayed at Anu and Shyam’s home, in case Krishna unexpectedly called or came back. Anu went to the corner store and used the copy machine to print out 500 missing-person flyers in English and Nepali. Each showed a photo of Krishna taken on the family trip to Washington, D.C., looking characteristically stoic, with the Capitol in the background.


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