Eating a carrot, a la Kitty (Detective Karamachand’s secretary in the famous Doordarshan teleseries), will not make you a detective. But possessing qualities like the ability to remain inconspicuous in the crowd, immense patience, keeping a cool head in crisis, a keen eye and staying alert and sharp, would certainly make you one.
Rajani Pandit, said to be the first lady detective in the country, says her ordinary looks always helped her change guises, which is so integral to her profession. From working as a maid servant for three months to gather proof of a wife’s transgressions, to posing as a street vendor selling clothes, to chatting up the accused in a local crowd, Pandit has done it all, and no one had the slightest suspicion that she is actually sleuth on prowl.
Pandit started off alone. Her first assignment, so to say, came to her through a wedding gift for her cousin. Speaking at the 5th edition of Pune International Literary Festival, the Mumbai-based detective said, “One of our relatives gifted us a jewellery piece. The case in which it was presented was that of a reputed jeweller. But we had some misgivings about the ornament, thinking it was fake. So I took the gift to the store and found out that it was fake. When those relatives came over again, I mentioned it to them. They got very angry and insulted me, complained to my mother,” she says with a laugh.
Being blamed for ‘interference’, complaints, and threats is all in a day’s work for Pandit. She believes that she is doing honest work, and no harm will come to her, because she hasn’t harmed anyone. It’s her quest for truth that has compelled her to enter in this profession, for which there was no textbook course, nor any guidelines. “When I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to become a detective, they were clueless. And so were my initial clients, to an extent. But I did my work honestly. I have worked with police and they have co-operated in most cases,” adds Pandit.
There is a confidentiality clause in her agreement with the clients, so she doesn’t reveal the details of the cases, but points out that most cases today fall in the realm of suspected infidelity and snooping out details of prospective bride or groom.
“Suspicion causes much harm and angst amongst partners. It should be nipped in the bud,” says Pandit. But that and marital discord fetch her clients and consequently money. “I get cases from Australia and US too,” she explains.
It was in 1990s when Pandit took up this profession. In the last three decades, a lot has changed. Pandit avers, “Earlier, I used a 30 minute recording tape and now it’s kind of endless. We have very small cameras to do video recording. I am a little slow in keeping pace with technology, but I have a team of youngsters who help me out.”
With that she busts stereotypes of a detective being an all-in-one package, or relying on just one trusted assistant. “We have a team and together we crack the cases or ferret out information,” points out Pandit.
Besides cracking more cases, she wants to set up an institute to train people to become spies. “We can prevent many crimes and acts of terrorism from happening. Don’t underestimate the art of shadowing or sleuthing,” she concludes.