India’s First Woman Detective Is Living All Our Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Fantasies!
Everyone is guilty of including being a “detective” in their “what will you become when you grow up?” list. In fact, even today, we all secretly wish for a life where all our Marvel, Sherlock Holmes, or Byomkesh Bakshi skills could be unleashed. How thrilling it would be to become badass spies, unmask villains, and help people get justice? Well, it’s a different story, that before anybody else, the voice in our head assumes the role of a poking grumpy relative who has ruined multiple careers in the family with pointless advises, to recite the handbook of “realistic” career choices that we must make to make a decent respectable living.
We’re glad that Rajani Pandit decided to burn that handbook to do what she felt was right. Her determination equipped with the street-smart skills has made her perhaps India’s first professional lady detective. She is the living proof that if the existing roads do not lead to the desired destination, one can always carve a new path!
Rajani Pandit, a resident of Mumbai has solved over 80,000 cases in her career spanning over 4 decades. Inspired by her father, who was in CID, she had a knack for unearthing facts, studying her father’s cases, and forming her own strategies on approaching and solving the case. Her first case was not even formally assigned to her. She had a friend in college whose behaviour seemed absurd from the past few days. It drew Rajani’s attention, and she soon found out about the illicit activities her friend was engaged in without the notice of her parents. She further found out that undue advantage was being taken of her friend by some ruffian men. Rajani not only informed the girl’s parents with ample evidence but also helped her get back to a normal life. When asked whether she was a professional spy by her friend’s father, she for the first time marvelled at the thought of what her skills could help her become. Hence, at a young age of 25, she decided to use her detective skills for good and become a full-time private detective.
Her father was not happy with her choice. Having seen the worst in this field, he believed that the work was too risky for a woman. He wanted Rajani, a Bachelorette in Marathi Literature from Ruparel College, Matunga, to take up a safe job like ordinary people. Rajani couldn’t argue against her father and tried to devote herself to a temporary job. However, within 3 months she realized that she was not cut out for it. Taking the leap of faith, she formed her own detective agency.
“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.”
She went onto solve 80,000 odd cases with her clients widespread all over the world. Of course, the risk involved cannot be undermined. Like in one case where she had to play a housemaid at a stranger’s home to catch a murderer. Speaking about it to The Better India, she recalls,
“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 says.
She spied on the suspect. However, since he always came home late, it was difficult for her to find out in detail about him. She needed a way into his house. Therefore, she approached the domestic help of the man pretending to be in dire need of work. Having taken pity upon her, the maid introduced her to the man and requested to be taken as a house-help to assist his wife. The man agreed, and Rajani’s mission kicked off.
“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 recalls.
One day, the man barged into the house and the woman and he seemed to be fighting over an issue. Amidst the fight, the woman exclaimed that he should stop coming so much at her place as she is doubtful that someone is spying over them. Rajani became alert and knew that if the man goes out of the house, they would never be able to catch him red-handed. How will she step out of the house to alert the police though? Both of them might suspect on her sudden request to step out at this hour. Without thinking, she cut her ankle with the knife. As she started bleeding profusely, she requested the woman to let her go to the doctor to get first aid. As soon as she was allowed, she went downstairs and quickly informed the police through a public telephone booth. Without wasting a minute, the police came and caught the man red-handed, who turned out to be the lover of the woman and the murderer of her husband. They also had solid evidence to prove his crime in court.
This is just one of the many cases she has successfully solved. In this entourage, she has assumed the role of multiple people to catch the culprits. Her most common cases are domestic ones such as divorce, extra-marital affairs, or background check of prospective bride/grooms in arranged marriages. With the introduction of sophisticated gadgets, her work has become easier and efficient, and the scope for collecting evidence has widened.
Rajani Pandit looks at her work more like a social service as she is not only being able to help people but also encourage and inspire them when times get tough. She is the boss lady in a supposed man’s world. I’m not sure how many prominent male detectives we have though who can be at par with her rich experience and skills? What I love about the story is how fearlessly she has made an unconventional career choice and excelled at it! You’d want to believe her words when she says,
“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”