THE SU­PER SLEUTH

BHAVNA PALI­WAL De­tec­tive

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - COVER STORY - Aasheesh.sharma@hin­dus­tan­times.com Fol­low @Aasheesh74 on Twit­ter

Chas­ing sus­pects on des­o­late stretches, across cav­ernous malls and seedy ho­tels may ap­pear to be an odd pur­suit to most. But 38-year-old Bhavna Pali­wal, one of the best-known women de­tec­tives in the Cap­i­tal, says her pro­fes­sion isn’t just ex­cit­ing, it is im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing.

For the last 13 years, from an in­con­spic­u­ous of­fice in North Delhi’s Ne­taji Sub­hash Place com­mer­cial com­plex, Pali­wal has been run­ning the Te­jas De­tec­tive Agency. “If through my work I can al­lay the anx­i­eties of peo­ple, I am do­ing the so­ci­ety some good.’’

In­dis­cre­tions by way­ward wives or er­rant hus­bands form a chunk of Pali­wal’s work. If it isn’t spouses spy­ing on their bit­ter halves, it is par­ents fix­ing their chil­dren’s wed­dings who want to be sure of the match’s char­ac­ter. “Wasn’t it Jane Austen who wrote, ‘Hap­pi­ness in mar­riage is en­tirely a mat­ter of chance’?” asks Pali­wal. “As de­tec­tives, we ask peo­ple not to leave it to chance,” she guf­faws.

Pali­wal says the pro­lif­er­a­tion of so­cial me­dia is fu­elling an en­vi­ron­ment of sus­pi­cion. She cites a case where a 35-year-old teacher be­came friends with a 28-year-old. “Af­ter strik­ing a friend­ship on Face­book, she be­came in­ti­mate with the NRI when he was vis­it­ing In­dia. Her sus­pi­cious hus­band ap­proached us. Af­ter mon­i­tor­ing her move­ments we di­rected him to the coffee shop where she was chat­ting with her young lover.”

Pali­wal’s in­ter­est in the world of de­tec­tives was kin­dled dur­ing her child­hood. Her father, a farmer in Ut­tar Pradesh’s Firoz­abad district, died when she was just six. Her mother had to shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of rais­ing Bhavna and three sib­lings. But even in school, young Bhavna loved to de­vour Hindi pulp fic­tion writ­ten

We can't do con­tin­u­ous sur­veil­lance. In our coun­try, a woman stand­ing at a site for a few hours will have to field queries

by Suren­der Mo­han Pathak. “That is where I first de­vel­oped a cu­rios­ity about de­tec­tives,” she says.

Hav­ing com­pleted her BA in Hu­man­i­ties from Agra Univer­sity, young Bhavna moved to Delhi.

It was here that she re­sponded to an ad­ver­tise­ment from the Times De­tec­tive Agency and was hired. As a 22-year-old rookie sleuth, Pali­wal’s first big test came dur­ing a rou­tine check to con­firm a girl’s mar­i­tal his­tory. She gained en­try into the girl’s home pos­ing as a sales­girl. “I be­friended the lady of the house and be­gan chat­ting with her about her fam­ily. She re­vealed their daugh­ter was mar­ried to a small-town busi­ness­man be­fore things went awry. At this point her hus­band for­bade her from spilling the beans. He sternly asked who had sent me. The man said he un­der­stood psy­chol­ogy since he had him­self re­tired from the In­tel­li­gence Bureau!”

For a few ner­vous mo­ments, Pali­wal thought she’d been caught. But she kept her cool. “I in­sisted I was a sales­girl sell­ing shampoo and showed him some doc­u­ments to back it up. It was a close shave.”

Over the years, Pali­wal has be­come more cau­tious. “A de­tec­tive can’t af­ford to stick out. We con­duct back­ground checks and blend in with the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Hav­ing nav­i­gated the world of de­tec­tives for more than 15 years, Pali­wal says be­ing a woman de­tec­tive has its pos­i­tives. “Women clients are much more trans­par­ent with us about their prob­lems.”

On the flip side, there are cer­tain dis­ad­van­tages a woman de­tec­tive faces in In­dia. “We can­not do con­tin­u­ous sur­veil­lance. In our coun­try, a man stand­ing at a site for more than a few hours won’t raise eye­brows. But if a woman is stand­ing some­where for long, she should be pre­pared to field awk­ward queries.”

She charges at least ` 35,000 for pre-mar­riage checks, ` 1 lakh on­ward for ex­tra-mar­i­tal probes and ` 10,000 up­ward for check­ing cre­den­tials of em­ploy­ees.

Still, deal­ing with de­ceit and adul­tery day in and day out hasn’t shaken Pali­wal’s faith in the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage. “I don’t take my work home. I am mar­ried and my hus­band is not a de­tec­tive. My work has taught me a cru­cial les­son: Have faith in your part­ner but don’t have blind faith.”

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