Ahead of the Indian Crime Writers Festival 2015, bpb catches up with one of India’s first female detectives to scope out her office, her bag and her many, many disguises.
There’s no office shadowed by grey blinds, no cryptic voiceover describing trouble as his middle name; no dangerous dame standing in the doorway.
In fact, in this Mumbai office, bright and sunny with a cherry red wall and shelves filled with awards, the dame is the detective. Sitting across from us as she appeared on her first interview with Doordarshan in 1988 - salwar kameez, earrings and burgundy bindi – Rajani Pandit is an amiable lady in her late 40s who claims to be the first female detective in India. “There were two mail rooms at the Doordarshan office filled with letters addressed to me after that interview was telecast,” she smiles.
“You don’t like tea,” she states, and we wondered if that was part of her observational routine. “You have to be sharp and you have to think on your feet. Besides that, there is no course or qualification required to be a detective in India."
We felt compelled to ask Rajanai that clichéd fashion magazine question – what’s in your bag today? She obliged, and out tumbled a mix of what we expected, plus some surprises: a burkha, a couple of wigs, a pair of binoculars, spy cams masquerading as pens and buttons, a bottle of water.
Starting out with petty cases while still in college, Rajani has solved over 75,000 cases in a career spanning 30 years, written two books, had her share of press and is on her way to starring in a documentary.
Since she started out, technology has changed drastically – “equipment has evolved from large recording devices that couldn’t last for more than ten minutes to spy cameras the size of a button,” – but human nature hasn’t. “Cases continue to be about suspicious spouses, thefts, conducting background checks pre-marriage, investigating businesses before investing,” she claims.
So what does the average week of a detective in India look like? “I’m usually working on four to five cases at any given time, strategising with my team of 20 people, shadowing suspects, having ‘aha’ moments, sometimes even helping cops.”
Our ears pricked up at the mention of “shadowing”, and we felt compelled to ask Rajanai that clichéd fashion magazine question – what’s in your bag today? She obliged, and out tumbled a mix of what we expected, plus some surprises: a burkha, a couple of wigs, a pair of binoculars, spy cams masquerading as pens and buttons, a bottle of water.
“I’ve pretended to be blind, and also a crazy homeless person while shadowing suspects. But before we take on cases, we study the client as well, to make sure we are not aiding any case of blackmail.”
Reflecting on the state of the private detective industry today, Rajani has several thoughts: “It would be great if the business could be formalised and detectives issued licenses. Then I would have better qualifications than experience and woman’s intuition.” For now though, they seem like more than enough.
Getting there: Rajani Pandit Detective Services, call 24464449 or +91-9821121060, visit http://rajanipandit.com, price could range from Rs 10,000 for a case to Rs 10,000 a day depending on scope of work.
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