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Playing Sherlock

Journalist Manoj Sharma narrates his experience of working as a private detective in this piece.

delhi Updated: May 25, 2008 03:15 IST
Manoj Sharma

Mysterious though it may sound, I have never been a Sherlock Holmes fan. But when I was asked to be in someone else shoes for ‘Just Do It’, I thought it might be fun being a private eye.

So, one hot afternoon I land up at a detective agency with a request to let me work for them. I have to maintain client confidentiality, I am told by the owner of the agency, a former military intelligence man.

Then he gives me a pre-marital investigation: I have to track down one Anamika Mehta (name changed) in Pitampura and do a background and ‘character’ check. She is soon to be married to a businessman in Lucknow and her would-be brother-in-law wants the lowdown on her. Anamika, I am told, works for a financial advisory company in Arunachal Building on Barakhamba Road.

I have to reach her home at 8.30 am, the time when she leaves home for work in her Maruti Zen Estilo. I am given strict instructions: “Park your vehicle some distance away from the girl’s house, keep to left while chasing her car so that you are not seen in her right side car mirror, make sure that there is at least one four-wheeler between your bike and her car, change your shirt while chasing her back home from the office.”

I am scared, even thinking of chickening out. My detective boss gives me a pat on the back, telling me how journalists are actually investigators!

So, the next morning I am at the girl’s Pitampura residence at 8.15. I park my bike 200 feet away from her home, sit on a bench in a park with a newspaper in my hand, waiting for her to come out. I’ve been told what she looks like: 5 feet 5 inch, slim, fair with short hair. It is 8.40 and she’s not come out. I am getting worried: Will she or won’t she?

She finally emerges, with a gray bag slung over her shoulders. I grab my bike, and soon I am behind her Zen. She drives fast – but I do not want to lose this race at any cost! At 9.45 am, she drives into Arunachal Building. I park my bike at the Metro station. I see her handing over the car keys to the security man in charge of the parking at the building. She gets into the lift.

I chat up the security man, winning his sympathy by telling him how tough his job is. It helps; he starts talking. I casually mention “the lady in the red top”. He tells me that she is a very good-natured girl.

We are soon joined by a driver who also knows Anamika; he tells me that she has resigned and is serving out her notice period. “Why has she resigned?” I ask him. “I think she is getting married. Madam dil ki bahut achchi hai,” he answers. He also tells me ‘madam’ leaves around 5.30 pm.

I come back to my own office and get back to Arunachal Building by 4. 45. I suddenly realise I have forgotten to change my shirt. Across the road there is a Public Conveniences. It is still half an hour to go before the girl comes out, so I hop across, take off my red T-shirt and wear the green one I had stuffed into my office bag. Soon I am back at Arunachal Building. Anamika comes out on time and she takes the same route back home as in the morning.

The second day, I repeat the routine. The third day, I go over to her place in the evening, take the same seat in the park.

I cannot muster courage to talk to the neighbours. It is now 7.40 p.m., and a woman, who seems to be the domestic help, comes out of the house. I introduce myself as a student looking for a rented accommodation in the area. I ask her if there is room where she is currently working.

“No, they do not give out rooms on rent,” she says. She seems talkative and quite proud of the Mehtas, her employers. She tells me that she has been working in the house for the last ten years, that the Mehta family has three daughters; two are already married, and the youngest Anamika is to be married soon.

“Anamika didi ki shaadi ke baad hum sab akele rahen jayenje. Didi bahut care karti hein hum sab ka.”

I decide to give a clean chit to Anamika.

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