The well-known co-owner of a popular Tacoma restaurant is missing and his family fears the worst.
Tacoma police found a car belonging to Chiranjiv “C.J.” Singh, 44, co-founder of Gateway to India, on Sunday at Titlow Beach.
Singh, his phone and wallet were nowhere to be found. He was to leave Monday on a trip to India.
“He was going through a divorce,” his older brother, Surinder Singh, said Tuesday in the family’s restaurant on Sixth Avenue. “I don’t know if that caused him to do something.”
Titlow Beach is just a quarter-mile from the Tacoma Narrows bridges. In May, a niece talked Singh out of jumping from one of the spans.
“He couldn’t do it,” sister Kuljinder Kour said.
Surinder Singh fears his brother might have taken his life this time.
“He was depressed,” he said.
Kour fears he might be the victim of foul play.
Both siblings agree he appeared happy Saturday when they last saw him.
“He seemed fine,” Surinder Singh said. “There were no signs of distress.”
C.J. Singh, who almost always wears a ball cap, is the gregarious greeter at the Sixth Avenue restaurant and at the family’s other restaurant in Gig Harbor. The Singh brothers also man their popular food stand at four farmers markets: Proctor, downtown Tacoma, Sixth Avenue and Puyallup.
“Half of the town knows him,” Kour said. “Anywhere we go people say, ‘Hi, C.J.’ and he goes and hugs them.”
But Surinder Singh and Kour said on Tuesday that the smiles sometimes masked a deep depression.
“You couldn’t really tell, just by looking at him, that he’s really depressed,” his brother said. “He has a different face to show the public.”
Police have listed Singh as a missing person.
As of late Tuesday, he had not been found, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
His car did not appear to be ransacked and keys to the businesses were found in the vehicle, Cool said.
“We looked all around,” Surinder Singh said. “We walked by the tracks. We couldn’t find him.”
Gambling played a part in Singh’s life. Too big, according to his siblings.
Kour fears someone followed her brother from a gambling parlor and might have abducted him. He frequented Chips Casino and Macau Casino, both in Lakewood.
He had lost a lot of money lately, Surinder Singh said, enough to put the family’s businesses in jeopardy.
“He was (feeling) guilty about that,” Kour said. “He was blaming himself.”
He was living with Kour and the siblings’ mother, who is distraught about the disappearance of her youngest child, Surinder Singh said.
The family opened Gateway to India in 1997 and expanded it in 2004. They opened the Gig Harbor restaurant in 2009.
The brothers came to Tacoma from Japan in the late 1980s, the sons of an Indian diplomat. They attended Tacoma Community College.
After getting a master’s degree in computer science from Washington State University, C.J. Singh and his brother discovered their friends liked the food they cooked.
“Friends would come over and eat our food for free,” Surinder Singh said.
The brothers made a deal: If the friends bought the food, the brothers would cook it for them.
“Then we ate for free and they ate good food,” he said.
From there a restaurant was soon born.
“He’s the brain of the restaurant. I stay in back,” Surinder Singh said.
Late Saturday, Singh showed his older brother how to handle computer work — work Surinder would have to do while C.J. was in India.
C.J Singh was looking forward to the trip, where he was set to help another brother start a tofu business.
“He was happy about it,” Surinder Singh said.
He said his brother seemed to be getting better after the May suicide attempt. Still, the family kept close tabs on him.
“My daughter always tried to be by his side, never leave him alone,” Kour said.
The siblings said their brother is tight-lipped.
“He kept everything inside,” Surinder Singh said. “You have to pry everything out of him. He won’t open up.”
After the May incident, Singh promised his family he would not take his life.
“We love him,” said Kour, who said she was unconcerned about the financial losses. Family is more important.
“Money is not very important,” she said. “He is more important to us. We want him back.”
Her daughter, Kour said, would be shattered if she never saw her uncle again.
“He is our baby brother,” she said.