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Teacher-turned-sleuth makes it big, runs her own band of investigators

Shiv Sunny, New Delhi, Jan 11, 2015, DHNS: 8:03 IST

When Taralika Lahiri joined the profession, there were very few women in the field

When her job demanded it, Taralika Lahiri donned roles like a visa official, an NRI, an air hostess and even a wedding caterer.  DH Photo
A few extra sheets of paper containing the minutest of observations catapulted Taralika Lahiri from a mere commercial executive to a private investigator.

Detailed notes, in-depth homework and loads of confidence continue to be her biggest assets 25 years down the line. There is little in her mannerism and appearance to suggest she is a private detective.

She obviously carries no magnifying lens, wears no hat – props that figure in caricatures of sleuths.

And the only things in her office that indicate she is a detective are the certificates of appreciation from clients.

Frequent incoming phone calls from younger detectives seeking advice suggest she is on the ball.

When her job demanded it, she donned various roles, including that of a visa official, an NRI, an air hostess and even a wedding caterer.

She had gate-crashed a wedding when an NRI client hired her to spy on his wife who demanded a huge alimony claiming she was confined to a wheelchair.

“I was informed that the woman was to attend a wedding in Delhi. My team and I entered the wedding venue as caterers and photographers. The woman who had sought alimony, claiming to be paralysed below her waist, was dancing at the wedding. We recorded the video which worked in my client’s favour in the court,” says the 53-year-old.

Initially, a public school teacher, Lahiri’s entry into this profession was accidental. She had never watched any detective films as a youngster. She had read a few detective novels, purely out of interest than anything else.

“I never thought a teacher like me would turn into a detective,” says Lahiri.

Looking for a change in job in 1989, Lahiri came across a newspaper advertisement by a private detective agency seeking a commercial executive for marketing its security devices in Delhi.

Within a week she was put on an embezzlement case in a bank in Allahabad as she hailed from that place.

“I was requested to visit Allahabad for a week and take notes on whatever I observed. I returned with 25 pages of observations, much more than what detectives generally note down. It eventually helped crack the case,” recounts Lahiri.

The minute observations caught the bosses’ attention at the agency. Lahiri was immediately moved from marketing to investigations.

She went on to start her own company National Detective & Corporate Consultants (NDCC) in 1994 and currently leads a team of 15 private investigators, including women.

With no formal professional experience, Lahiri learnt the necessary skills on the job.

Audio and video recording gadgets have surely made her work easier, but intuition, good homework, loads of confidence and presence of mind continue to be her biggest assets.

How quickly a detective needs to change roles was demonstrated a few years ago when a client asked her to collect evidence that her husband had remarried and was about to leave India within two days.

She reached the house of the man only to find a relative inside.

“I was told that the man had left for the UK embassy to arrange for visa. I immediately said I was from the visa office and was allowed entry into the house,” says Lahiri.

In no time the relative handed over the man’s wedding invitation card to her which went on to work as evidence that the man was indulging in bigamy.

Often she needs to be persistent for hours, days and at times for months. Once she had to chat online with an American woman for over a month before the foreigner revealed that she was actually living in Agra.

“An American client had contacted me to trace the woman who had allegedly stolen money from him before leaving for India. I began the investigation with only very basic information such as the woman’s Indian name and that she was looking to start a yoga studio in India,” says Lahiri.

After visiting the woman at her Agra home early last year, Lahiri informed her client that the American woman had fallen in love and married a local autorickshaw driver.

“Two days before my client arrived in India to confront the woman, I heard the news that she had been killed by her jealous husband. I handed over the newspaper report to my client when he visited my office,” she says.

She has seen several relations break as a result of her investigatiions, but believes it is better for people to know the truth than to suffer later.

She has also come across fake customers, many of whom she now claims to detect even in a casual conversation.

A rich woman had once approached her to keep a tab on her husband whom she suspected of infidelity. Later she realised that it was the woman herself who was cheating.

She was using the detective to monitor her husband’s movements so that he would not catch her with her lover.

Initially, Lahiri was among the very few women detectives in the city.

Today there are many more, but Lahiri claims to be the only elected woman member in the World Association of Detectives, an international association of private investigators.

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