During a rare conversation with 53-year-old Rakesh Maria, one can hear him talk about his love for Taekwondo and how he waits to get on to the basketball court.
Or the Indian Police Service officer will talk about how he does not miss any Pink Panther movies.
If you spot several spectacles strewn around, he will bring out more. He keeps misplacing his spectacles, he says.
Maria hardly looks like a man who can make the most hardened criminal sing.
“He is soft, until he talks,” said a police officer, who has been a close associate for 15 years and has seen how one slap from the six-footer once left an accused unconscious. “But when he smacks, he smacks real hard.” The well-built officer does not have to rely on sodium pentothal (truth serum) to get a criminal to talk.
‘The investigator’ has solved most blast cases in Mumbai since the 1993 blasts.
Son of a Bollywood film producer, Maria grew up in Mumbai amidst the glamour of cinema, but chose the IPS in 1981 after graduating from St Xavier’s College.
All the three options in Maria’s application form back then read, ‘IPS…IPS and IPS’. Maria insists he joined the force for its ‘dignity and discipline’.
Maria started his career in 1981 as assistant superintendent of police, Akola, and is still grateful to all the constables who taught him the tricks of the trade during night patrols.
Maria always wanted to specialise in traffic management and even attended a course in Japan in 1986.
The team he led cracked the 1993 serial blasts.
He has had his share of controversies. In 2003, after solving the twin blasts case, Maria was shunted to the Protection of Civil Rights branch. The Central Bureau of Investigation inquired allegations that he had links with the underworld.
Maria came out clean two years later. This was the 49th inquiry he had faced.
He returned as the Mumbai crime branch chief in June 2007 and started solving pending cases. Under him, the crime detection rate reached 94 per cent, a first for the crime branch.
Maria also investigated two major terrorism cases in the past decade.
Trailing car thieves from point-to-point, he arrested 22 Indian Mujahideen members, responsible for bomb blasts across India since 2005.
He also led the probe into the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
In what will soon be his former office at the crime branch, a glass cabinet holds a plaque with a policeman’s prayer for courage among a line of trophies and awards. This cabinet, Maria’s prized possession, will now follow him to the Anti-Terrorist Squad headquarters at Byculla.