Rajani Pandit, born in 1962 in Maharashtra, India, is a name that resonates with resilience, determination, and a passion for unravelling the truth.
She is renowned as India's first female private investigator, a trailblazer who has spent decades making her mark in the traditionally male-dominated field of detective work.
With a career spanning over three decades, she's the founder of the Rajani Investigative Bureau and has authored books about her remarkable experiences.
Growing up in a middle-class family, Rajani Pandit exhibited a strong sense of curiosity from a young age.
Her father, Shantaram Pandit, was a sub-inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department of the local police department, and perhaps this early exposure to the world of investigation influenced her path.
Pandit pursued her education in Marathi literature at Ruparel College in Mumbai, where she completed her formal studies. However, her foray into the world of detective work was far from traditional.
Rajani Pandit's path to becoming India's first female private investigator was unconventional. She initially worked as an office clerk and only ventured into investigative work to help a colleague who suspected her daughter-in-law of theft.
Her meticulous tracking and dedication in solving the case marked the beginning of her journey into detective work.
Her first paid case led to her fame when she exposed a man's secret second family in the countryside. From that point on, clients, especially women, began to seek her assistance, gradually establishing her reputation.
Rajani Pandit's perseverance through the challenges of local misogyny was evident when a newspaper refused to print her advertisement, doubting that a woman could be a private detective. Despite such obstacles, she set up her office in Mahim, Mumbai.
Pandit's fame grew as she used "old school" detective methods, often disguising herself and conducting surveillance on foot.
Her cases included elaborate undercover operations, such as posing as a servant for six months in a murder investigation. These daring methods led to the capture of conspirators and a successful outcome.
As her firm expanded, she trained other women and developed professional training courses for detectives.
By 2010, her agency employed 30 detectives and handled various cases, including marital issues, suspected affairs, missing persons, murder investigations, domestic issues, and corporate espionage.
In February 2018, Rajani Pandit faced a significant challenge when she was arrested in connection with an alleged scam involving the illegal sale and purchase of call data records (CDRs).
However, she was released on bail after 40 days and maintained her innocence, with her lawyer emphasising the absence of evidence suggesting wrongdoing.
Despite this challenge, Pandit's reputation remained strong. Her firm was hired during the 2019 Indian general election to conduct financial checks and background investigations on multiple candidates, showcasing her continuing influence in the field.
Rajani Pandit's contributions have not gone unnoticed. She has received the Hirkani Award, which celebrates women's achievements, from public service broadcaster Doordarshan.
Her life and career have been documented in the documentary film "Lady James Bond" by Dinkar Rao, and she was featured in a "Humans of Bombay" post in October 2018.
Furthermore, a thriller based on her life, titled "Kuttrapayirchi," stars actress Trisha in the role of Pandit, further elevating her legacy.
As of 2018, Rajani Pandit lived near Shivaji Park in Mumbai with her mother and two brothers. Despite her commitment to her work, she chose to remain unmarried, ensuring she could dedicate her full attention to her family and career.
Rajani Pandit's life and career exemplify a journey of resilience, shattering stereotypes, and thriving in a traditionally male-dominated profession. Her legacy as India's first lady of detective work continues to inspire generations and redefine possibilities for women in the world of private investigation.