FEATURE: What does it take to be a female private investigator in India

How did it you get into the profession?

Even as a child, I was curious about everything. This tendency only intensified as I grew older. The turning point of sorts was when I was in college and became very intrigued by the behaviour of a girl in my class. I monitored her for a few days and found that she was slowly getting embroiled in a vice gang. I cautioned her father who intervened and that young girl’s future was saved. That is when I knew I could do this well and professionally. Initially my dad, who was also an investigator, was against me taking up this profession but my mum encouraged me to go ahead. I got passionately involved in this work after I graduated and at age 25, started my agency.

Was it difficult to get noticed in the beginning?

I had trouble getting ad space at the outset of my career. Around that time I came across a woman who was getting anonymous letters that claimed her husband was already married. I took up that case which ended up saving her marriage. The woman’s brother was a reporter and he helped me place my first advertisement. In 1991, my story featured in a TV show called Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin. It aired on national television; that’s when things turned around and we’ve had regular assignements since then.

Rajani Pandit, a Mumbai-based private investigator, has solved thousand of cases. Pictures by Sumesh Rajan/Newslions

What kind of cases do you get?

So far I have solved 75,000 cases. I get approached by insurance companies if they suspect a fraudulent claim; some companies ask me to verify the credentials of their prospective employees. Lots of people want to know if their spouses are having extra-marital affairs. So, much of my work involves tailing individuals to figure out their true intentions.

Are there upsides to being a woman detective?

Since no one expects a woman to be a detective it becomes easy for me to stay under the radar.

Tell us the most interesting case you’ve solved?

It was a murder case. I needed to gain entry into the house of the prime suspect, which was difficult as the man was a recluse and only came home at nights. I told his servant that I was in dire need of a job; the next day I was inside his house as his domestic help. I worked as a maid for six months to gather evidence, but in the end it was worth it because he was brought to book.

What do you like most about your work?

The job is very high-stakes, there is never a dull day in office. My team and I work in great tandem. We get to help people; plus there is the thrill of solving a crime.

Would you ever consider a profession switch?

I quite like the brand identity [of being a woman detective and entrepreneur] that I have established and am very proud of it. Moreover, I don’t think any other profession would be able to make use of the multiplicity of skills I have acquired over the years.

Your advice to aspiring detectives?

A detective must be discreet as he is privy to great many secrets. There will be occasions when one will be tempted to reveal confidential information for personal gain – that’s when one must choose to stay ethical.

What qualities should a sleuth have?

A detective should pay great attention to detail as it helps in sizing up situations. He must have the ability to think on his feet as indecision can be fatal on the field. Criminals are very sharp and to outwit them we have to stay hyper vigilant. Another essential is the ability to manage fear and emotionally-charged behaviour because things do get dangerous and overwhelming on the field. Intuitive understanding of human personality definitely helps.

What do you think is the future of PIs in India?

I think the profession will flourish. With the advent of internet, we have also started getting several cyber fraud cases. So, mysteries are aplenty, there will always be the need for a PI.