The characters

Nirav Choksi: Jeweller, protagonist
Kabir Khan: Additional Director, CBI
Krishnan: DGP, Kerala
Vikram Rai: Retired Comptroller and Auditor General of India, leading the audit team that audits the Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Subhash Parikh: Murdered jeweller / Nirav Choksi’s friend

Nirav Choksi, a name the who’s who of Mumbai had on their speed dial, designed and manufactured customised jewellery for the rich and famous all over the world. He was often referred to as the Indian Joel Arthur Rosenthal, one of the world’s most exclusive jewellers whose high-flying clientele included Elizabeth Taylor, Elle Macpherson, Kim Kardashian, Michelle Obama and even the Princess of Jordan. Nirav Choksi’s client list boasted the marquee names on the social circuit – politicians, wealthy Indian businessmen, film stars. Choksi wielded a fair bit of clout on the jewellery trade in the country. A man with both contacts and influence, he was an extremely sought-after guy in the political circuit for skills which went beyond jewellery design.

Like Rosenthal, he too made fifty to sixty pieces of jewellery a year. Connoisseurs recognised an NC piece the moment they saw it. From traditional to contemporary, he designed them all, never repeating a design. A man with a huge ego, Nirav crafted his own designs and would get very upset if a client tried to dictate to him. He was once overheard saying that he preferred international clients to Indians, not because they paid more, but because in India every woman thought she was the best designer in the world. There were times when he had refused to sell a piece of jewellery because he felt the ornament would not look good on the client – such was his pride in his craft. Every stone is a canvas and every item of jewellery is a piece of art, he would say. Advertisements and self-promotion were not Nirav’s style. According to him, “word of mouth” was what helped him get and retain clients. Even his office in Zaveri Bazaar was a thousand-square-foot pigeonhole in the basement of Pancharathna Complex.

Zaveri Bazaar was the nerve centre of the jewellery trade not only in Mumbai, but the whole of India. Roughly sixty per cent of India’s gold trade passed through the narrow overcrowded lanes of the bazaar. The shabby buildings lining the sides of the main road held crores of rupees worth of gold, diamonds and jewellery, all stored in lockers built into the walls of the small stores, said to be strong enough to withstand any kind of robbery attempt, earthquake or bomb blast. The Government of India’s attempts to move the diamond and jewellery trade to a snazzy new building in Bandra Kurla Complex, an upmarket suburb in Mumbai, had been met with resistance. Many jewellers, led by Nirav Choksi, were Zaveri Bazaar loyalists and unwilling to move to the government-sponsored yet privately owned BKC Diamond Bourse.

Ravi Subramanian

It was Nirav Choksi’s turn to be summoned for questioning that afternoon. The police were not calling it an interrogation. Yet.

“So Subhash Parikh was a close friend?” Kabir Khan asked him as they sipped green tea in Krishnan’s office.

“Not a very close friend. But a friend nevertheless. I had known him for over forty years. He too lived in South Mumbai, in the same neighbourhood. He moved overseas, I stayed back. Still, we ended up in similar businesses. He built a large set-up in Antwerp and the US. Antwerp for his diamond trade, and the US for his antiques business. We stayed in touch over the years. It’s hard to cut off someone who has been a part of your growing-up years. There’s a lot of history. My father had saved him from being sent to a juvenile remand home years ago. That sense of gratitude was still intact.”

“Any business dealings between…”

“Us?” Nirav finished Kabir’s question. “None.” He glanced at Krishnan. “As I said, though both of us belonged to the jewellery trade, our constructs were very different, so there were no business dealings between the two of us. And because I deal with exclusive clients, there were no common clients on the jewellery side.”

“In the last two weeks that you have been here, did Mr Parikh seem stressed, worried, or anxious about something? Did you notice anything that you thought was abnormal?”

“No, nothing! In fact he was an extremely jovial, happy-go-lucky kind of a person. It is sad that something like this happened to him.” The rapid blinking of his eyes indicated to Khan that he was fighting back his tears.

“Do you know if he had any enemies?”

“No, he never mentioned anything or anyone that might have been bothering him. And why would someone track him all the way here and kill him?” Nirav nervously wiped the sweat on his forehead with his hand.

“Why are you sweating, Mr Choksi?” Khan asked him, casually offering him a napkin to wipe his forehead.

He swallowed anxiously. “Could I be next in line?”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Mr Choksi. We have increased security in and around your hotel, and along your route. And needless to say, the temple is now a fortress.”

“Oh, that’s a relief!”

They spoke for some more time, Nirav answering all their questions confidently and without any hesitation.

“Last two questions,” Kabir said, rising from his chair and walking round the table to the other side. He opened a folder kept on the table and handed a photograph to Nirav. “Do you know her?”

Nirav looked at the woman in the photograph. He shook his head. “No.”

“You’ve never met her?” Krishnan asked. “Ever?”

“You heard me. Never,” Nirav replied testily.

“As expected,” Kabir muttered. He slid a chit pad across the table to Nirav. “Can you give us Subhash Parikh’s number?”

Excerpted with permission from In The Name Of God, Ravi Subramanian, Penguin Books.