India’s First Woman Private Detective on Her Favourite Cases and Numerous Disguises

For India’s first woman private investigator, there is no field of work that women cannot enter and excel in. Of super interesting cases and even more interesting disguises – this is her story.

“I was the first woman in India to get into this field. People used to pass snide remarks and wonder if I chose to become a detective because I didn’t get any other work. ‘This is not a woman’s job,’ they would tell me,” remembers 50-year-old Rajani Pandit, the highly acclaimed private investigator from Mumbai who is known to be the first woman private investigator in India.

Rajani was only 25 when she started her agency named Rajani Pandit Detective Services, in 1991. Today, she has a team of about 20 people and together they have solved over 75,000 cases. Being a woman in a field dominated by men was not easy. Rajani had to face several challenges for even the most basic things like getting ad space in a newspaper.

But, she was prepared. Her agency slowly gained in popularity, thanks to her impressive work, and she has clients all across India and in different parts of the world now.

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“I was never scared of anything. I knew from the start that the one thing we are all afraid of is death. And that can come in any way. You can die while sitting in the living room if the ceiling falls…so there is actually nothing to be scared of,” she says.

She was in college when she became interested in investigation for the first time: “I realised that if you look around carefully, you will find many problems and mysteries in many houses. Problems that people can’t solve themselves and need external help with. But they don’t have any evidence and don’t know where to go. That’s when an investigator comes into the picture.”

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The first case she solved wasn’t one that was formally handed to her in her office. It was born out of her curiosity about changes in the behaviour of one of her friends in college. On keeping an eye on her for some time, Rajani found she was getting involved in some illicit activities that her parents weren’t aware of. Moreover, there were some untrustworthy men who were taking advantage of her. Rajani informed her friend’s parents and helped her get back to leading a normal life. It was this girl’s father who, for the first time, asked Rajani if she was a spy. And that was when she thought of becoming one.

Born and brought up in a middle class family in Thane, Rajani studied Marathi literature at Ruparel College. After that she took a temporary job and worked there for three months before setting up her agency. While her father didn’t support this decision in the beginning, her mother was always by her side. “My father said that this is not a suitable field for women. But my mom knew I had been very stubborn since I was young. She just said that I should be allowed to do whatever I want to do.”

For Rajani, one of the most memorable cases she solved is the one in which she had to live in a stranger’s house as a servant for six months; at the end of this period, a murderer was arrested.

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“There were reports that a woman hired someone to kill her husband because she was involved in an extra-marital affair. She later killed her son too because he was suspicious about her. The police suspected that this woman’s lover was the murderer, but they could not find him. That was when I was asked to intervene,” she recounts.

She started keeping an eye on the suspect’s house but the said man used to come home only at night and she could not find out a lot about him. So Rajani decided she had to find a way to enter the house. She spoke to the domestic help, pretending to be someone in desperate need of work. The next day, she was able to enter the suspect’s house as a servant. “After I had worked in that house for some time, the woman fainted one day. I gave her medicines and called the doctor. She was very happy with my work and decided to keep me there as a caretaker,” she recounts. Finally, when the lover came, the two had a big fight and the woman asked him not to return there because she feared people were spying on them. Rajani knew that if he went away this time, they would never be able to catch him. She had to find a way to inform the police but she didn’t have a mobile phone back then. So, she went into the kitchen and dropped a knife on her feet. Seeing the blood, the woman asked her to go to the doctor downstairs. She hurried out, informed the police, and the suspect was arrested within 20 minutes.

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In another case, a woman at her workplace was very concerned because someone was stealing jewellery from her place at regular intervals, ever since one of her three sons got married. She suspected that her daughter-in-law was involved but didn’t want to say anything until she was sure. Rajani volunteered to help and started keeping a watch on her house. She found that after everyone used to leave the house, it was one of her sons who would steal the jewellery and take it to his friend’s house.

Rajani has played many different roles to solve several cases till now – that of a maidservant, a blind woman, a pregnant woman, a street vendor, etc. She does whatever it takes to solve a case. The most common cases she has solved include those to do with couples who don’t trust each other, cases of extra marital affairs, finding details about a girl or a boy before a marriage is arranged, etc. “I also try and support people through their tough times, give them courage, and inspire them to move forward. This way, I am able to do some social service as well,” smiles Rajani.

She feels that the work of a detective today has become quite easy because of the availability of modern equipment like better recorders, bugs, spy cameras, and so much more.

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“If you want to do something, you should do it. There should be no shame in doing any work you are passionate about. Self-confidence, courage, and stubbornness – these are the things that take you a long way. With these, women can do anything that they set their minds to,” she concludes.

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You can contact Rajani by writing to her at [email protected].

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