By BRIANNE SORG
NEW DELHI, India, August 2—The Associated Press learned yesterday from government officials in the province of Uttar Pradesh that the search for two young Americans who went missing in India nearly three months ago has officially come to a close.
“At this time, there is little else we can do,” said Sergeant Bikram Mujabi of the Delhi police. “Our hypothesis has been that they, like so many Western seekers who have come to our country in search of spiritual enlightenment before them, have simply gone off to live in the mighty Himalayas and sit at the feet of Lord Shiva. However, their parents are very worried, and there is no way to let them know if their children are dead or alive. It is possible that young Evan and Ella met their ends through foul play or a miscalculation while hiking through a dangerous mountain pass. It is also possible they were abducted, or even murdered, by a band of marauding Kashmiri rebels.” Mujabi paused before adding, “I suppose they may even have joined the rebels, in which case we will have to kill them ourselves should we encounter them.”
Meanwhile, friends and family in the United States are continuing to mourn the disappearance of Evan McAllister, 23, of San Francisco, and Ella Paris, 24, of New York. “I'm terrifed,” said Paris' mother from her home in Brooklyn. “The last I heard from either of them was an email Evan sent telling me that my daughter was passing her days with a pervert pretending to be a tantric master. My baby would never do something like that!” Close friend David Michael, 26, said: “We always thought they would have, like, the perfect life with, like, tons of kids and cool jobs, if they could just have ignored their existential angst and stuff. They were always so worked up about the meaning of life and junk like that, and, dude, look where it got them. Nowhere. I mean, literally: we don't know where the f--- they are. It sucks.”
Paris and McAllister's ultimately mysterious saga began while both were in school—she at Stanford University, where she was studying to become a marine biologist, and he at the University of California at Santa Cruz (his major was undeclared). During a summer internship in Santa Cruz, Paris met McAllister at a beach party and they quickly bonded over a few beers and a heated argument about George Lucas and the transformational dialectic of Zen Buddhist motifs in contemporary film.
It is unclear whether their almost immediate attraction was ever consummated, although a friend of Paris's, Amanda Jane Caper, 22, told the Associated Press, “You should have seen the sparks between them. It was totally like Romeo and Juliet, you know? A love/hate thing from the very beginning.”
Their relationship became a long-distance one upon Ella's return to Brooklyn to care for her ailing father, who eventually died in February 2004. It was Evan and Ella's passionate and heartbreakingly authentic email correspondence, resulting from their separation, that gained them a small international following and made them famous to all Americans, who four times a year could read the latest developments of their lives in the pages of What Is Enlightenment? (or “WIE”) magazine.
“We were compelled to publish Evan and Ella's emails because they epitomized the very real spiritual predicament of an entire generation,” Craig Hamilton, managing editor of WIE, said. “These kids grew up in the aftermath of the East-meets-West spiritual explosion of the sixties, and their lives are in constant confluence with the cutting edge of technology, pop culture, and postmodern globalization,” Hamilton continued. “The complexity that their generation faces in the world today is tremendous, and they sadly lack a legitimate spiritual context in which to understand their experience. For us, 'A 21st Century Love Story,' as we called it, was a means of exploring the deepest philosophical and spiritual aspirations of young people today.” Added Hamilton as he stared into the distance, “Man, we miss those two something terrible. But you know, I refuse to lose hope. I truly believe it's possible they're still alive. Every day when I hear that funny little chirp that alerts you to a new email in your in-box, my heart jumps, and I silently pray that when I open up the email, it will be from Evan or Ella.”
Within months of the first publication of their emails, Paris and McAllister's lives were riveting tens of thousands of readers. The San Mateo Register wrote in their review of the series, “'A 21st Century Love Story' is nothing less than a vision of metaphysical nonpareil, in which heaven and hell, and dynamic and passive forces, are powerfully juxtaposed. It reveals the private passions of an entire generation, and always leaves readers breathless for more.”
For the past year, readers of the series were taken on a whirlwind journey as they joined Paris and McAllister on their romantic goose chase for each other's affections and their on-again, off-again quest for spiritual liberation with Mother India as their stage. Circumstances eventually conspired to lead Evan to Rishikesh, where he studied ancient yoga techniques, and Ella to Dharamsala to study with a young Tibetan tantric master.
“Although many may think that their stories ended there,” Hamilton said, “we actually received another ten or so emails from them before they disappeared. We intend to publish these installments from the last days of their known lives online in a new multimedia interface that their devoted fans—as well as friends and family—can visit on a regular basis.” Hamilton continued, “You know, some people accused WIE of publishing these emails because Ella is my niece. But it isn't true; my motives were never nepotistic. On the contrary, my editorial decision to make these dialogues public was purely based on their profoundly transformative value. And that just makes it all the more heartrending that Evan and Ella are missing like this. It's as if a radiant light in our world has suddenly gone out. But with evanandella.com, we are going to keep the fire of their passionate idealism blazing. And who knows? Maybe it will help us to find them.”